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Joe Schmidt's tactics aren't restrictive, insists Conor Murray

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Watching Joe Schmidt's Ireland, it is easy to imagine the coach directing his players around the park from up in the stands with a magic wand.

Nobody is buying his regular claims that he is an innocent bystander like everyone else in the west stand of the Aviva Stadium, but Conor Murray says the players retain a level of autonomy. When it's on, they're encouraged to take their own risks.

The fear factor lingers, with the squad fully aware of the scathing tongue that awaits in the review room ready to pounce on any inaccuracy.

But the Lions scrum-half doesn't hear his master's voice in his ears as he plays.

"No, that would hinder you wouldn't it?" he said.

"I suppose you listen to Joe and the coaching staff all the way through the week and they give you the feedback and the correct gameplan and you rep it out, and if there are a few tweaks that he wants to talk to you about he'll do that.

"But once you go out onto the pitch you should have a clear mind and know exactly what to do, and then in other areas of the game when split-second decisions are to be made, you back yourself, and that's completely fine as well.

"Joe does not stop you from backing yourself. If you see something on, you go for it. That's absolutely fair enough, but if it doesn't work out and you put the team under pressure, then you might find yourself spoken to.

"If there's something on, then you go for it. The split-second decisions are where you want to back yourselves, that's completely fine as well.

"Joe does not stop you from backing yourself.

"To a certain extent (you're following orders), but you don't go out on the pitch as a robot and just do exactly what you're told to do. You do have a game-plan and, under any coach, there's a game-plan that you try and follow.

"Look through the video and there's times we go against the grain of play or do our own thing. People do back themselves and express themselves if they want to, you can do that within a game-plan as well."

Murray believes Ireland have improved over the past year even if they are not perfect going into the battles with Wales and Scotland.

"We've definitely improved. Winning's a habit and it's a nice habit to get into. It helps things flow a lot easier," the MaxiNutrition ambassador said.

"There's loads of areas in which we've improved, even individuals working with coaches. We are a year further down the line with Joe. We know each other a lot better and that shows on the pitch."

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