Conor Murray says plenty pretenders for Sarries’ crown

Munster pitch up at the home of one English heavyweight tomorrow but it is the travails being experienced by another which has opened up the vista of potential glory for the province, and many others besides, next May.
Conor Murray says plenty pretenders for Sarries’ crown

Back-to-back champions this last two seasons, Saracens have imploded this term with the heavy loss at home to Clermont Auvergne in last Monday’s delayed fixture, their sixth in as many games.

And Conor Murray admits it is a run that makes the heart beat slightly faster.

It was Sarries who called a halt to Munster’s continental ambitions in last season’s semi-final in ultimately comprehensive fashion at the Aviva Stadium.

A new dawn beckons then, although Murray feels there is no shortage of sides basking in the light.

“Obviously Clermont because they were the side that (beat them last week) and, historically, I’ve played them in a semi-final and they’re a tough team to play. They’re an extremely talented bunch.”

A fitful but still talented Toulon and a La Rochelle side blowing all-comers away on their first visit to the European stage were two others to merit a mention as likely lads. No mention of Leinster, though.

“It’s no different to any other year, but you’re right, the Saracens thing will probably push on a few teams,” said the scrum-half.

All seven of England’s Champions Cup representatives felt the sting of defeat last weekend and Murray wasn’t the first to point to the alacrity with which the clubs there recalled some of their Lions to domestic duties after summer exertions with the Lions.

Saracens may also be suffering from the effects of the prolonged exertions necessitated by such a run of success in recent seasons. Leicester, who Munster face in Welford Road tomorrow, have no such excuses to explain their fall from once-mighty heights.

Twelve points off Exeter Chiefs in the domestic ladder, where they lie sixth, the Tigers have spiralled down the European order of merit since their heyday and Munster had little difficulty in accounting for them the last time in Limerick.

The week since has orbited around talk of this time 12 month ago when the province hockeyed the same opponent at Thomond Park before being humbled in the East Midlands a week later, but Murray insists the players don’t require that history lesson.

Just as crucial to the outcome will be referee Matthie Reynal given the interpretations, or lack of them, espoused by his compatriot Jerome Garces in Limerick last time when Munster dominated at the breakdown.

Leicester coach Matt O’Connor was angry after the final whistle with what he saw as Munster’s infringements and he repeated the complaint in his weekly Leicester Mercury column this week.

The former Leinster boss accused Munster of not rolling away, not releasing the ball carrier after the tackle and putting their hands in front of the ball at the breakdown.

It’s enough noise to make you think Munster will need to be squeaky clean this me.

“I thought our breakdown work was good,” said Murray.

“It was a joy to play on the front foot like that. When you go away, in Europe, your discipline is top of the list of things to get right.

“If you’re indisciplined early in the game, give a team like that points and get their fans into the game, it’s difficult. You have to be accurate, squeaky clean, because you’ll get away with less. It’s been highlighted, I’m sure we’ve sent in a few notes. That’s the way the game is.”

Pinergy has teamed up with Munster’s Conor Murray to announce it is the official energy partner to Munster Rugby, and launch #WeAre16 an innovative campaign to support the sponsorship, which went live yesterday.

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