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I'm haunted by ghosts of 2015 misery, says Murray

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

As a survivor, Conor Murray knows the 2015 World Cup quarter-final exit is going to come up in conversation so he gets the first reference in as a pre-emptive strike.

It is not, he insists, going to form part of his motivation as Ireland come face-to-face with the ghosts of Cardiff for the first time on Saturday, but he concedes that deep down the hurt still lingers.

This, however, is a new team, and they are determined not to be burdened by the events on that Cardiff afternoon two years ago.

The turnover since backs him up. Ireland have played 22 games since losing to Argentina in the Millennium Stadium, using 72 players - 31 of whom were making their debuts.

Of the 23 who faced Argentina, just eight are likely to feature again this weekend.

"I am one of the lads who was involved in that game," Murray said. "It's not in my mind this week because I am in a new group, I am playing with a team that is completely different to the team that played against Argentina that time around.

"I have got to stress it's not part of my motivation, but if you were just to speak about it as a game on its own, it is a game that would haunt you a small bit because there is the what could have been.

"It's like getting knocked out of any tournament. I have semi-finals with Munster in Europe in my head that would gnaw away at me as well and you are just thinking what could have been.

"Like Toulon or Clermont a few years ago as well, you're looking at the fact you could have made it to the final and you don't know what would have happened then.

"Everyone has them and it just happens to be Argentina coming around this time. It hasn't been mentioned in our squad, but there are lads who the last time we played Argentina it was that game.

"I am not going to say it is a massive motivation but it's a little bit there."

It remains an unpleasant memory of an unpleasant day.

"It was, yeah," Murray conceded. "It was probably one of the worst days in an Irish jersey for a load of reasons.

"It was a game where you had a really good chance to make a semi-final of a World Cup.

"Thinking back, people talk about the players we lost, but at the same time we gave them a really good start in that game and they still carry that threat.

"Especially since the Jaguars have come together, they know each other an awful lot better. The majority of them play together. So those threats are still there.

"There are definitely lessons we can learn from that game, although it was a long time ago also. But if you want to talk about that game specifically -yeah, it was really tough, because we gave them a good head start, and then we clawed our way back to three points down and then we just let it slip again.

"A really tough day, and they're the days you don't like to have, but you also learn an awful lot about yourself and the team in those days. Not a nice day."

Since the two teams last met, Ireland appear to have kicked on while Argentina have been struggling - winning just eight of their 26 matches since compared to Ireland's 14 in 22.

But Murray believes they are benefiting from constantly coming up against the Southern Hemisphere's big three.

"They have grown as a squad," he said. "Playing against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa so regularly - when they joined they Rugby Championship, that is what they said, they said they are going to play against these teams so much they are going to get better and that is what has happened.

"They challenge any team, it's a big challenge for us this weekend and we want to finish on a high so it is going to be a massively competitive game.

"They will be the same, they are an emotional group as well, any game they are up for it and they don't go away easily. It's going to be exciting. I can't wait."

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