Conor Murray is back in the Munster fold and loving every minute of playing for his province after a disappointing end to Ireland’s World Cup campaign.
The Champions Cup campaign, which continues with a pool clash against Racing 92 and old pals Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan at Thomond Park this weekend, has provided the perfect post-World Cup focus for the scrum-half, who admitted it would have been only too easy to view Ireland’s quarter-final exit to New Zealand as the end of his season.
“We had a break after (the World Cup) and let the dust settle, processed it, and not mourned it... just got over it and I made sure I came back in here with the right attitude,” Murray said yesterday.
He returned to provincial colours off the bench in the PRO14 win over Ulster 11 days ago and followed it with a start against Ospreys as Munster opened their Pool 4 campaign with a bonus-point win at Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
“You could have easily come back in here and moped about, nearly not motivated for the rest of the year because the World Cup is such a big deal and we put so much pressure on ourselves, blah, blah, blah.
“You have to be mature about it — that’s over, it’s gone. There’s still plenty of rugby to play, you have the opportunity to play well for the rest of the year and do something positive. I’ve come back in here with the right attitude and it’s fortunate we get to come back with a group that’s striving to win things.
"Out of the 12 of us who came back (from Ireland duty), we all came back with a good mindset and getting back out there, even just getting out training, was a help because the way we went out of the World Cup was tough. It was a tough time and a tough place to be.”
As much as Murray has welcomed the chance to turn the page, he does not shy away from analysing where it all went wrong in Japan.
“I did enjoy the World Cup, it was just the defeat at the end (that leaves a bitter taste). We did a great pre-season, we prepared really well, and opened up really well against Scotland. Japan was a tough game; they got their purple patch and we didn’t manage to deal with it. We went 12-3 up and then they got a purple patch.
"I’ve got to say they got a good few (refereeing) decisions and that can turn the tide in a game.
“But their energy and things, they did probably deserve to turn the tide. Russia was an all right game and then against Samoa, we got things up and running and got a bit of confidence behind us again.”
That confidence proved short-lived as their tournament dream was smashed by the mighty All Blacks. Murray believes it was just one of those days when the rugby gods were against them.
“We know how good we are and how well we prepared. In sport, this is my summary of it... some days in sport it just doesn’t go according to plan. Everything you have prepared for and thought you’d see, you didn’t see.
“We had two really good chances at linebreaks, I’m not going to say try-scoring chances, but linebreaks in the first half and spilled the ball. Certainly, off one, they turned the ball and scored straight away. On the other one, it took a few phases but that’s where the turnover started. Two tries down, then it’s really hard to get back into the game. They smothered us and we probably forced it.
“It was a shame that it was such a big occasion. Sometimes you just can’t explain why it went wrong.
“When it goes the opposite way, that’s when people are obliged to say that or feel they can say it.
“We had full confidence in what we were trying to do, we just didn’t do it. It would be nice to get that chance again but you might not.”
European champions Saracens were yesterday fined an undisclosed sum by Champions Cup organisers EPCR following their no-show at the competition launch in Cardiff earlier this month.
The EPCR event was staged the day after Saracens were docked 35 English Premiership points and fined over £5m (€5.8m) for breaching the league’s salary cap over successive seasons.
The clubs’ director of rugby, Mark McCall, and captain, Brad Barritt, had been due to represent the club at the 2019/20 European campaign launch but failed to appear andSaracens accepted they breached the competition’s participation agreement in the process by breaking its media rules.
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