Treatment of Murray was atrociously dangerous

Ronan O'Gara says Conor Murray is right to be peeved. 

Treatment of Murray was atrociously dangerous

He was targeted by Glasgow last Saturday and that’s alright in the context of everything being fair in love and war etc. But going after someone totally exposed with one foot planted is a disappointing low in rugby and something I view as absolutely scandalous and appalling — and I have a fair idea of what I am talking about in this area.

I did my cruciate against the Dragons in 2005 from that exact sort of challenge. The out-half, because of the amount of kicking, is obviously vulnerable, but when you are a nine, box- kicking a metre or two from the ruck, you’re in a vulnerable place when it comes to this sort of behaviour.

I’m not sure people fully appreciate how vulnerable a box kicker is in those circumstances. To execute that properly, all the pressure is on his pivot foot and there is a premeditated decision to attack his standing leg. The consequences could be horrendous. It’s not sneaky, it’s atrociously dangerous.

A late tackle on a single, exposed leg — you can build up the knee area as much as you want, do all the balance and prehab work as proposed, but there’s no defence to that. If that was me in Scotstoun, I’d have kicked out. Murray did extremely well to keep it together.

On the Munster nine, I did think he’d been knocked out in a midfield collision during the game in Scotland. He took an almighty belt, Munster took him off, and after his return, he took another.

I know Conor, but I am looking at him from the outside. I sensed that smiley, composed Murray face looked a little different for a bit, but he’s the only one who can comment accurately on that (as he has done this week).

The Champions Cup organisers questioned Munster’s management of Murray, but there’s been zero focus on the very blatant and dangerous way he was targeted throughout the match.

Then Leinster’s Hayden Triggs gets three weeks for “contact around the eye area” while Montpellier’s Francois Steyn gets four weeks for the Johnny Sexton hit. If I hadn’t enough to despair about this week, I might get around to getting exercised about all that.

However, for the most part, this week has been about avoiding the temptation to look beyond tomorrow. Munster’s confidence is now at a high pitch, buttressed by the sense they are bullet-proof defensively.

To go to a form team like Glasgow, playing their biggest match of the season in front of their home crowd, on their synthetic pitch, with swathes of field position and ball possession, and not concede a try to them is bordering on incredible.

I wrote here last week that Europe still hadn’t got a true feel for how good Munster have become. They’ve convinced a few more with the manner of that victory.

The road is there for them, one bit at a time. A home quarter-final, Saracens no longer looking quite so invincible without the Vunipolas. Leinster look good for sure, Clermont too, at least until they leave the Stade Michelin, but Munster is a formidable hurdle for anyone now. And they will turn a semi or final venue into a home game with their support.

Racing 92? Don’t read too much into the victory against Leicester. Mallow would have given the Tigers a run for their money last Saturday. They’re still in the process of sorting out where they are at post-Cockerill.

On the eve of what should be a special sort of homecoming for me tomorrow, Racing are eyes forward and locked on the Lyon Top 14 game next weekend. Without that on the horizon, we might have been able to mix things up a bit for Munster and bring a pretty decent side.

But with the injuries we have, the Lyon game now becomes a huge priority for the club. Eddie Ben Arous, Camille Chat and Maxime Machenaud will be involved tomorrow at Thomond only because they are part of the French squad which is excluded from domestic action next weekend.

Dan Carter won’t travel, which is a disappointment not just for the Thomond Park faithful, but for himself. He has never played in Thomond Park.

I’m not moping about this, but since the draw, there’s been that excitement at the prospect of our lads experiencing a proper European Cup Saturday at Thomond. Obviously we are not going to get that. It has the potential to be an unpleasant 80 minutes for us all in the visiting changing room.

Sometimes lads who aren’t regulars feel that if they’re not current, they don’t have to uphold standards and reputations. Of course they do. It’s not that teams get much joy at Thomond anyway. Most visitors go home with their tail between their legs.

The objective now is to see what competitors we have in this Racing squad. The fact the Champions Cup is dead this year for the club, I hope that is not used as an excuse for people to shrug and say ‘well that game didn’t count’. It does count.

The thing is, it’s Munster, a 26,300 full stadium, the game sold out last week. It’s what rugby in the European Cup is all about. There was a dip but the Munster march is back. Anyone who loves rugby appreciates what Munster stand for.

We have all worked our asses off for three and a half years, but we’ll hardly see the real Racing 92 tomorrow. There’s a need to postpone judgement until we see how the Top 14 goes. But it’s sort of disappointing to be going home in such circumstances.

January nights in Thomond Park

January 19, 2003: Munster 33 Gloucester 5

Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of this one. Wow. The key to so many great European nights at Thomond was the chemistry between the fans and the team. We lifted them. They lifted us.

18/1/2003: Munster’s John Kelly scores a try despite the efforts of Gloucester’s Thinus Delport
18/1/2003: Munster’s John Kelly scores a try despite the efforts of Gloucester’s Thinus Delport

The Munster faithful always seemed to be at the pitch of where they players were. They knew what every situation required. They dictated the tempo and invariably got us over the line, even if it took to the last few seconds, like the Miracle Match and that late John Kelly try.

January 21, 2006: Munster 31 Sale Sharks 9

And this anniversary is tomorrow. Will the Munster pack gobble up another French forward like we did that famous night with the totemic Sebastian Chabal.

When I refer to those dirty, misty European Saturday nights at Thomond, this one is always my reference point. Everything was right about the feel of the occasion. The crowd were even on the front foot. It was the night the phrase ‘hammer the hammer’ was created.

January 19, 2008: Munster 19 Wasps 3

Dallaglio was their captain, Denis Leamy got the only try, we went buck ape.

That night had the sense of momentum building, and the momentum didn’t lie. Strange things you remember: I executed a banana kick in that game, something you do in training a lot, but something that seldom comes off in open play in a real, live pressure occasion.

19/1/2008: Munster’s Denis Leamy scores a try against Wasps as Ronan O’Gara and Doug Howlett celebrate
19/1/2008: Munster’s Denis Leamy scores a try against Wasps as Ronan O’Gara and Doug Howlett celebrate

We fed off the crowd that night, but when you give the Thomond crowd something to get behind, Christ do they get behind you. There was another game against Clermont when the supporters pulled us off the floor.

Paul O’Connell and Jamie Cudmore were sent off early and Munster really needed the crowd.

There are occasions where they dragged us over the line. That was one such.

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