Conor Murray says it is on Ireland’s players to put in an 80-minute performance against Scotland this Saturday and atone for their poor second-half outing against Georgia.
Ireland bring a six-game international window to close at Aviva Stadium this weekend with an Autumn Nations Cup third-place play-off against Six Nations rivals whom Murray believes will be “licking their lips” at the thought of facing a side who only managed to put three points on the Georgians in a desperately poor second-half last Sunday.
Ireland won the game 23-10 but after a demoralising loss to England at Twickenham the previous week, the second 40 minutes against a Tier-Two nation who had drawn a blank in their previous two games in the tournament has ramped up the pressure on head coach Andy Farrell and his squad.
Murray, speaking on Wednesday, said the onus was on the players to dig Ireland out of a hole of their making, not the coaches.
“We’ve reviewed the game honestly and truthfully and there’s an appetite in the squad to get it right this weekend,” the Ireland scrum-half said.
“I’ve said in loads of interviews that there’s small fixes, or we’re very close or this and that, so it’s up to the players now.
“The coaches have given us everything we need to go out and perform and it’s about us executing at the weekend. If it’s a matter of executing a breakdown or getting fast ball or not letting the Georgians slow things down, you know, things like that are solely on the players’ backs to get right. And off the back of that, to convert opportunities.
“We were annoyed at the weekend that we didn’t perform better and put more points on the board even though Georgia deserved to be in the game but you can sense it as a playing group that we’re frustrated with what we’ve shown last weekend and we want to put it right this weekend.
“So that usually leads to a much better performance, when the players take ownership and they understand that it was on them and a lot of the fixes are down to the players so there’s that vibe in camp this week.”
Murray, 31, has recovered from the dead leg he sustained in the first half of last Sunday’s game and played 57 minutes in his first start of the Autumn Nations Cup campaign. He will be fit to face the Scots in what will be his 87th Irish appearance and he promised Ireland will go into that game determined not to let a poor 40 minutes against Georgia keep team spirits down.
“We know we should have performed a lot better. The first half was really good. We wore them down, we had a few tries held up over the line and things like that, and if they go your way the scoreboard’s very different at half-time and the second half becomes a lot different.
“The second half we deserved not to score too many points in that half. Like Andy said, the Georgians deserved to slow down our ball, they made our breakdown really hard and we got what we deserved effectively. We hold ourselves to a higher standard and we expect to perform a lot better, especially given the way the first half went.
“So the mood was, you know, we reviewed the game and we were harsh on each other and it was the way it needed to be. We didn’t shy away from it. The players, the coaching group, we all kind of fronted up and accepted the mistakes and moved forward because we have been going quite well. The way we’ve been trying to play has been really exciting and enjoyable and if we had a good second half against Georgia we’d be having a completely different conversation.
“So we’ve 40 minutes, we’re not going to let that keep us down for the week. We’ve been doing a lot of good things.”
Murray does believe that if Ireland were in Scotland’s shoes and had seen their opponents struggle against Georgia, they would be travelling to Dublin smelling blood this weekend.
“They’re a good side and as you’ve seen over the last few years, I know we’ve won the majority of them but they’ve been really close battles and we’ve tagged on a few scores late in most of those games.
“They’re always a really difficult side to play against and they’ve a few new fellas in there, exciting players, and look, if they had played against Georgia last week and struggled to put them to sword, if you will, we’d be more confident than we usually would so I’m sure they are licking their lips.
“That’s the challenge for us, to right the wrongs from last weekend and put it up to the Scots because they’ve no fear of coming to the Aviva, they always seem to put it up to us and it’s a game they always play well in. It’s definitely a huge challenge for us and like I said, 40 minutes isn’t going to dampen our mood this week.
“We’ve been enjoying camp, we’ve been enjoying the way we’ve been playing, we’ve seen really good glimpses of it so it’s another chance to go out there and show people.”