Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Six Nations

RBS 6 Nations: Time to make Ireland proud

By Niall Crozier

Following last Saturday night's victory over Italy, new record appearance holder Brian O'Driscoll likened the penultimate match of Ireland's 2014 RBS 6 Nations campaign to a semi-final, given that they had to win in order to be in contention for silverware this weekend in Paris.

Yesterday, as the Irish players left their Carton House base for the airport, scrum-half Conor Murray took O'Driscoll's comment to its logical conclusion.

"Yeah, it's a final we're playing in, we obviously want to win," he said.

"There's a cup at the end of it and if we lose it will be bitterly disappointing."

Carton House in Co Kildare has been a safe haven. Insular, even. Coach Joe Schmidt is delighted that his players have been able to prepare well away from the buzz and chatter of Dublin. That's a view Murray shares.

"When we get out to the airport and get to France we'll have more of a feel for it," he said.

"But it's a good thing that we're able to get the work you need to do done; there are no real distractions here – you can focus on the rugby and switch off at times, there is none of that added distraction so it's a great way to prepare."

Having had such a good tour of Australia with last summer's British and Irish Lions, 24-year-old Murray – who wins his 27th Ireland cap tomorrow – believes that experience will stand him in good stead.

"The main thing I took from that was confidence and self-belief that I can go out and do a job when the pressure is on and I'm going to draw on that," he said.

Ireland have not won silverware for five seasons, the 2009 Grand Slam being the last time they had something to show at the end of a campaign.

Murray was not part of that triumph so now he wants to savour some success for himself rather than having to make do with older colleagues' memories of how it felt.

Asked how important it is for Ireland to return from Paris on Sunday as Six Nations champions, he replied: "Massive, really massive.

"To win in a green jersey... it's the highest standard. And to win a tournament like the Six Nations, certainly it's been my experience for the last couple of years that it's a very hard tournament to win and to get results.

"To be in with having a shot at the championship in the last game is a great position to be in and to get there you have to be a good team. We're drawing confidence that we have done well and that we can put a performance together.

"To win would be a massive achievement in my career."

Tomorrow night in the heat of what promises to be an intense battle fought before a packed Stade de France audience, Murray believes those who were part of Ireland's success in 2009 will have a major part to play in helping those who were not.

"There's a lot of young guys there as well, but it's great to have the guys that were there in '09," Murray said. "These guys know what it takes to win.

"But at the same time Joe Schmidt has instilled confidence in all the players that they can go out and perform their role for this team and deliver for this team and get us over the line.

"The younger guys in the squad are in a good place now; we really believe in ourselves, we believe in the squad – not just the 15 but the 23 and the extra players too.

"I think we really believe we can perform because we're a very strong, tight group."

He may not have been part of the 2009 success, but already he has played in his share of big matches. He is in no doubt that he will be able to handle the pressure.

"I suppose, from my point of view, I've gone into games where we've needed results when there is silverware on the line," he said. "I'm going to look back to those times and draw confidence out of them, if you've won or not.

"I am going to do my usual routine, prepare like I always do. If I'm stuck or I'm feeling a bit nervous, I'll just chat to some of the older lads who have been in the situation before."

He is confident that Ireland have built towards a positive outcome, a victorious finale.

"I think we are performing better and better each week," Murray said. "All we can do is look after our corner and hopefully our performance does go up another notch from the previous weeks and we do play well."

Losing? He really didn't want to contemplate any such outcome.

"We're all a competitive bunch of players, it's a final and if we lose out on a trophy, it will be bitterly disappointing," he admitted.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph