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We're ready to take fight to powerful English, says Murray


Focused: Conor Murray in Portugal yesterday
Focused: Conor Murray in Portugal yesterday

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Sitting in the shade away from the beating Portuguese sun, Conor Murray sips on a protein shake and considers the prospect of kicking off his season against England in Twickenham.

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Normally, players get to start their seasons in the relative obscurity of pre-season friendlies or early Guinness PRO14 games away from the spotlight.

Every four years, things take a turn and they are expected to hit the ground running on a bigger stage.

It may be August, and there may not be any tangible rewards on the line with the big prize on the horizon, but playing England is playing England, and when your last outing against the auld enemy ended in a humiliating defeat there is an even more pressing need to hit the ground running.

While Murray is not dwelling on a disappointing Six Nations that saw Ireland start with a heavy loss to England and end with a poor performance in defeat to Grand Slam winners Wales, he says they hope to have learnt from the experience.

"It's our first outing since then for a good few of us, last weekend (against Italy) was the chance for other lads to right a few wrongs," said Murray.

"It's not a motivating factor in the dressing-room, it's an individual thing and, to be honest with you, it's gone, it's over. Looking back on those games, we know how we lost them.

"We know what went wrong, but a lot went right in that Six Nations and there's a lot people we can take from it.

"Looking back on that England game, we just made a bad start and that seemed to be the start of the story-line for our Six Nations outside our group and maybe a little bit inside our group.

"That was the starting block, the standard set, and it felt like we were chasing ourselves.

"But, realistically, looking back at the game, a couple of little errors that turned out to be big errors just set us up for that game and maybe for the rest of the Six Nations.

"So we didn't get too bogged down in it, we knew what went wrong and how to fix it, so I think that's long gone but still really valuable learning lessons."

England physically bettered Ireland in that opening day defeat, while Saracens repeated the trick against both Leinster and Munster en route to winning the Heineken Champions Cup.

Eddie Jones is expected to recall Mako Vunipola to his line-up, while Manu Tuilagi could also start, and Murray says that, while there are ways of limiting the big ball-carriers' threats, sometimes you have to just front up and hit them right back in response.

"There's lots of ideas you can try and do," he said.

"Maybe the source of the ball, the platform at the set-piece and try to slow that, their first phase. There's all these things you can try and do.

"If you don't do that, you're going to front up and try and stop that momentum.

"Yes, it is more difficult because of all their explosive ball carriers but I think we have a few too.

"It's about working hard together, staying in the fight, and if they get to that point where they're on front foot ball - which they're searching for on the first two phases - then these guys will come on and strike and they'll pull the trigger out wide or (Owen) Farrell comes blind or whatever.

"We've got to front up so hopefully all those weights help out!" he added.

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