Ben Youngs: Conor Murray the ‘heartbeat’ of Munster side

Conor Murray is “the heartbeat” of the Munster side and Leicester will target the scrum-half in today’s crucial European Champions Cup tie at Thomond Park, according to opposite number Ben Youngs.

Ben Youngs: Conor Murray the ‘heartbeat’ of Munster side

Murray and Youngs were Lions team-mates two years ago, and the Englishman believes his Irish counterpart is filling the void at Munster left by the departure of Paul O’Connell.

But Youngs is adamant Munster are beatable in Limerick and says a Leicester victory tonight would prove the club are returning to their glory days of a decade ago.

“Conor is a good player, no doubt,” said Youngs. “Munster are always very competitive in Europe and he is a big heartbeat of their side.

“Losing O’Connell and guys like that means there will be more emphasis on him as a senior player to dictate.

“Has he been the best scrum-half in Europe over the last few years? I don’t know, there are a fair few.

“Morgan Parra is pretty good on his day behind the Clermont pack and Sebastien Tillous-Borde at Toulon runs the show nicely.

“Conor has done it but there are a lot of guys in Europe and a lot of scrum-halves who have played particularly well over the course of the last couple of seasons.”

Youngs believes Leicester are now a rising force in Europe. “We are looking like a side now that can genuinely get out of the pool and be competitive. In previous years we haven’t been competitive, we’ve struggled togged out of our pool.

“The Munster game is a good measuring stick. Geordan Murphy spoke this week about when they went there in 2007 and won, and how that stuck with many of those guys. Those guys said that was the best win they ever had in a Leicester shirt.

“We’ve spoken about that and if we get the win, it will be a game we remember for a long time. We know it will be tough but it’s one we’re looking forward to.

“It would be nice if we had Manu (Tuilagi) and Jean (de Villiers) available, because I think you need to go with your best team, but the guys who are in are playing well.

“I think we’re confident in the game plan to go there and put Munster under pressure.” Youngs has also revealed his side are using Leicester City’s Premier League success as extra motivation. Claudio Ranieri’s men are top of the English top flight and Youngs says the feelgood mood in Leicester has rubbed off.

“It is good to see them doing so well,” he said of the football team. “It has always been a huge sporting city. If rugby is going well and football as well, it is great for the city and the fans.

“I think at the moment with how we are going and certainly how they are going, we are in a good place. The city gets a good buzz and you can pick up and feed off that.”

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