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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Murphy relishing the chance to 'go home and play Leinster, my boyhood club'

The Ulster back row will face his former club in the Champions Cup quarter-final.

AS JORDI MURPHY reported for Ireland duty at the Radisson Hotel beside Dublin Airport yesterday evening, he more than most watched on with intrigue as results in Coventry and Toulouse contrived to set up an All-Ireland date in March.

Toulouse’s failure to beat Bath with a bonus-point meant Ulster’s quarter-final plans were rerouted from France to Dublin, and a mouth-watering meeting with Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. 

Jordi Murphy celebrates after the game Murphy celebrates Ulster's win over Leicester Tigers. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

For Murphy, the last eight tie will present him with a first opportunity to come up against his native province after moving to Belfast last summer, a game he is already eagerly looking forward to.

The 27-year-old — who helped Leinster to a fourth European crown in Bilbao last May — started all six of Ulster’s pool games this term, as Dan McFarland’s side booked a berth in the knockout stages for the first time in five years.

An inter-pro derby at the national stadium promises to be a riveting occasion, with no less than four Dublin natives — Dave Shanahan, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore and Murphy — starting Ulster’s round six win over the Tigers, while John Cooney produced a match-turning cameo off the bench. There will be no shortage of niggle on the last weekend of March.

“It’s huge for the club,” Murphy tells The42. “It was one of the things we said early-doors this season when we met as a group. One of the things Dan said as well was that we want to be playing knockout rugby this season. We’ll relish that challenge.

It’s really exciting personally for me to go home and play Leinster, my boyhood club at somewhere special to me like the Aviva. It’ll be great and an inter-provincial derby in the quarter-final of Europe, they don’t get tastier than that. We’ll all look forward to it.

Ulster showed huge character to rebound from a poor first half at Welford Road and book their place in the last eight as the best runners-up, having defied expectations by winning five of their six games against Racing 92, Scarlets and Leicester.

Reaching the knockout stages again is a big step forward for the northern province.

“At half-time on Saturday, there were some tough words said by Dan and Bestie and a couple of the boys. It was deserved though, I didn’t think we stood up in the first 40 minutes of the game, but it shows the character of our squad at the moment to come down from a deficit like that at somewhere like Welford Road,” Murphy continued.

“We were absolutely delighted we were able to do it and there were a couple of celebrations after it.

“When the group stages came out, our group was tagged as the pool of death. We knew this year coming in, if we could get things right and start to develop on Dan’s philosophy of good running rugby and a quick style of rugby, we could challenge a lot of teams. To come away from that group with five out of six wins is very pleasing.

Ireland’s Jordi Murphy Murphy is working hard to break into Joe Schmidt's team. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“There’s a lot to work on, but we can’t be too disappointed with ourselves, we came second and came away with 22 points.”

While that European weekend in March promises to be a compelling one as all four provinces bid to reach the semi-finals of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions, the focus now turns to the small matter of Ireland’s Six Nations title defence.

Murphy was part of the Ireland squad that departed Dublin this morning ahead of their week-long training camp at the Quinta do Lago resort in the Algarve, as preparations begin for the opening weekend showdown against England at the Aviva Stadium.

“We’ve a big two weeks now, starting abroad in Portugal,” Murphy, who featured in three of Ireland’s four Autumn Tests, added.

“A lot will ride on how we train and how we perform over the next two weeks, and hopefully, I can do that to the best of my ability and that will mean involvement for me against England.

“Getting away from all the distractions and noise is important. We’re going to a world-class facility where everything is there at our fingertips. It’s good to get away, bond together as a group and get a lot of hard work done.”

Ireland players CJ Stander, Jacob Stockdale and Jordi Murphy are encouraging fans to show their colours ahead of the Six Nations championship. Canterbury is the official kit supplier of the Irish Rugby team and the range is on sale now from and Intersport Elverys.

Jacob Stockdale, Jordi Murphy and CJ Stander Source: Ryan Bryne/INPHO

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Ryan Bailey

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