Scotland v Ireland: Rory Best backing Conor Murray to thrive in Six Nations opener at Murrayfield
Rory Best has backed Conor Murray to thrive amid the pressure of facing Scotland with a target on his back.
Scotland have made no secret of their bid to bully Murray in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash at Murrayfield, a tactic Glasgow employed in Champions Cup action against Munster.
Murray reacted angrily to what he felt were cheap shots as Munster edged out Glasgow 14-12 on January 14, claiming the Warriors players targeted his standing leg every time he lined up clearance kicks.
Greig Laidlaw has vowed Scotland will follow Glasgow's lead in singling out Murray - but Ireland skipper Best insists that will only draw an even finer performance out of the British and Irish Lions half-back.
"Just like every other player pulling on an Ireland jersey tomorrow, Conor will want to play to the best of his ability," said Best.
"Conor wants to make sure that the pressure that will be on tomorrow, that he rises to it, and that it spurs him on.
"He just wants to perform on the day and rise to the occasion.
"What Scotland will or won't do, that's what they've been discussing in their team hotel for the last two weeks. All we can do is make sure that as a pack of forwards we create a platform for him.
"We're all under pressure; we're all under pressure to perform, and at this level you're looking for every advantage you can get.
"The pressure on the nine, the pressure on the box-kick, it's something that a quality player like Conor expects. He expects them to pressure him around that area.
"For us it's about making sure that we cope with that pressure and we perform, and for him in particular that he's able to perform his role and we make sure that we get a good enough platform for him to get his box-kick or his pass off well.
"We've got to give him as good a platform as we can.
"We all know how good a player he is, if you're playing with for Ireland or against him when he plays for Munster.
"One of the biggest compliments you can give him is that you'd rather play with him than against him.
"He's a quality nine, he's a quality player, he's shown that and backed it up time and time again this season, and what we're asking from him is another one of those performances that he's delivered regularly this season."
Ireland will enter the Six Nations without linchpin playmaker Johnny Sexton, but captain Best has backed stand-in fly-half Paddy Jackson to control Saturday's Edinburgh contest.
Lions star Sexton could miss Ireland's first two Six Nations clashes owing to calf trouble, so Ulster's Jackson again steps into the starting line-up.
Sexton's litany of injury problems has afforded Jackson sufficient time in the Ireland shirt to register a tangible Test match foothold.
But now 100-cap hooker Best insisted Jackson must end any Ireland apprenticeship and master his outside-half craft.
"I think we need both our half-backs to dominate," said Best, of Jackson and Murray.
"There's no doubt that the half-backs move you around and put you in position to win matches.
"With Paddy and Johnny (Sexton) we have two really, really good out-halves.
"It's Jacko's chance now to have a go at it.
"He's played the majority of the Tests in the last 12 months. So he's ready to perform."
SCOTLAND - Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Allan Dell, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Richie Gray, Jonny Gray; Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson, Josh Strauss. Replacements: Ross Ford, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, John Barclay, Ali Price, Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett.
IRELAND - Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo; Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, Devin Toner; CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, Kieran Marmion, Ian Keatley, Tommy Bowe.A Twitter List by BelTel
Belfast Telegraph Digital