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Kiss wants more from Murray

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Conor Murray is being backed to further improve his game going into the final Test against New Zealand

Conor Murray is being backed to further improve his game going into the final Test against New Zealand

Conor Murray is being backed to further improve his game going into the final Test against New Zealand

Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss hopes scrum-half Conor Murray can build on his improvement through the series against New Zealand as he goes into Saturday's third Test in Hamilton.

The tussle between Murray and opposite number Aaron Smith lit up last week's second Test, with both scoring tries before the All Blacks won the game with a late Dan Carter drop goal.

That 22-19 defeat was a marked improvement on an opening 42-10 hammering and Kiss said: "Was it a defining game for him? No. Every game is a defining moment but I think he found another part to his game and that will serve him going forward. I think the big challenge is to make this next game, this next opportunity, something that builds on that."

Kiss added: "Conor, in the previous game, was on the back end of a quality of ball that was just not good enough. Our breakdown work wasn't poor but it wasn't consistently effective. Our ball carrying and the service we gave, not just to Conor, was not as good as we would have liked. We got a bit better at the weekend.

"Conor is a fantastic sponge who always wants to improve his game. What we saw at the weekend was just another layer."

The final Test in Hamilton on Saturday is shaping up to, once again, be a battle of attrition and Kiss feels the squad has benefited from the 'inspiring' surroundings of Queenstown, where Ireland are based for five days.

They will be without Gordon D'Arcy, who shored up the midfield area in the second Test but has returned home with a calf injury, but Kiss played down the Leinster centre's absence.

He said: "I wouldn't say it was anything to do with personnel and that is not taking anything away from Gordon. I think he has been brilliant for us.

"The truth is that the All Blacks are a fantastic team and the way that they open up space for their backs and their loosies (back row) is a hallmark of their game. They just couldn't get that purchase in the game the way they would have liked.

"The likes of Aaron Smith, Conrad (Smith) and Sonny Bill Williams, they couldn't quite get the game they would have liked but they just kept coming, that's for sure."

PA