Conor Murray insists that Peter O’Mahony had no need to apologise to the Ireland squad for his Cardiff red card.
O’Mahony was dismissed just 14 minutes into the side’s opener away to Wales last Sunday and, while the immediate Ireland response was exceptional, they ultimately fell to a close and agonising defeat at the Principality Stadium.
Ronan O’Gara has been among those to wonder how the game would have gone had Ireland finished with 15 men rather than 14. The La Rochelle coach suggested earlier this week that Andy Farrell’s side would have won by 10 points.
But Murray says there was no case for a ‘mea culpa’ from his Munster teammate.
He didn't need to,” said the scrum-half today. “It's not like he swung out at someone, or attacked someone. It was a genuine mistake. I think a lot of unlucky things came together for him to… for Tomas Francis' head to be in that position, it was unlucky for Pete.
“You could see him going into the ruck, there was no malice in it. He was trying to do his best for the team and make ruck ball really quick. It's a red card at the end of the day, it's contact with the head, which we all know (is a red) but Pete didn't mean that.
“He wasn't trying to go and hurt someone. He was trying to do his job and he was really unlucky.
O’Mahony is a key leadership figure in the Ireland setup and Murray believes that influence will remain off the field while the latter serves a ban which will see him miss the French game and the next two Six Nations fixtures.
That is something but Ireland need as many hands in the air as possible when it comes to selection and especially so with a high-flying French side coming to the Aviva and in sight of a second straight win.
Fabien Galthié’s side strolled past the Italians in Rome last week and leading the way, again, was their world-class scrum-half Antoine Dupont who scored a try, set up at least two others and was exceptional in every way.
Murray was rated the best player in world rugby by one French media outlet back in 2018 but there is no doubt that it is Dupont who is the man of the moment and the Munster nine excited about the contest to come.
“He had a lot of really good moments. A kick through for the try, an offload for another one, support lines. He had an all-action display. I know how good he is. He's really at the top of the game at the moment and he deserves the plaudits.
“He's a massive threat. He's a fantastic player and I've a lot of respect for him.
That goes for Ireland as a collective this weekend.
France haven’t won in Dublin in a decade – though they did draw 13-13 two years later – and Murray has made the point that the side facing Andy Farrell’s on Sunday is far from a one-man band.
“We know we’ve a huge task this weekend against a really good French side. We’ve been here before, we’ve played teams with threats all over the park, which France have: at out-half, and with guys like Teddy Thomas on the wing, with genuine pace.
“They can hurt you from anywhere. With that amount of threats, we’ve got to focus on ourselves in defence and what we can do. Look at ourselves first and then obviously have an awareness of the threats they do have in Dupont and (Mathieu) Jalibert and players like that.
“If we get our stuff right, then looking after them gets an awful lot easier.”