In Conor Murray’s 49-Test Ireland career to date the worst defeats have been those he has had to dwell on.
The heartbreak of that November 2013 defeat to New Zealand at the Aviva marked the end of the autumn series that year and left the Irish players with 10 weeks to stew before the following year’s Six Nations. Likewise last October’s World Cup quarter-final hammering by Argentina.
This weekend, in the wake of last Saturday’s devastating final 20-minute collapse to South Africa, Murray will welcome the chance to mark his 50th cap by helping to engineer an immediate rebound from disappointment and claim a piece of history with a very first series win against the Springboks.
No need to wait, just bounce back and go again.
“Absolutely,” Murray agreed. “That’s it exactly, because against Argentina in the World Cup it was the same thing. We didn’t perform and we got well beaten and then it was months until we got to play again.
“For the players we had to go back and play with our clubs and try and get it out of our system that way. But it must have been harder for the coaches who didn’t get to coach again for another number of months.
“We can right the wrongs this weekend. We definitely believe we can do it. We’ve just got to stay tight, stay together. “I think the atmosphere in camp is annoyed and that we left things out there. You can feel it around the place. People are hungry to get training and just go ahead, which is good.
“Obviously, we lost Robbie (Henshaw, to a knee injury), which is very disappointing, but we’ve 31 fit players and they’re all raring to go.”
The Springboks, of course, will be thinking the very same following their blistering comeback at Ellis Park last week, which has shifted momentum in this series firmly in their direction.
Murray recognises that but feels there is still more to come from Ireland in their final game of the season.
“I’m sure they will carry that momentum in.So, we’ve got to expect them to be feeling really good, they’ve been getting better and better and I think we have been too, bar the last 20 minutes when we started to stand off them.
“That’s when they really turned the game, so like any week we’re aware of who we’re playing, but we’ve got to concentrate on ourselves as much as anything. We’re very close to clicking, we have been clicking in a lot of areas and we’re going to brush up on a few areas and it’s all about bringing that performance on Saturday.
“We can get a good few training sessions in, we know what it’s going to be like playing against them, it’s going to be a tough ask.”
Murray insisted that neither altitude nor fatigue had been an issue during those torrid final 20 minutes at Ellis Park.
“We were “standing off the South Africans a little bit and soaking a few tackles which gave them front-foot ball and allowed them get into their rhythm.”
The scrum-half held his hand up for the missed tackle on Damian de Allende which led to to the Springbok centre scoring the try that finally edged the home side past the Irish, a moment he took full responsibility for as he spoke between video reviews yesterday.
“We’ve all been looking at the game. Parts of it aren’t that pretty but we all have to look at it and learn from it.
“There’s definitely things we can fix. We made certain areas pretty hard for ourselves, where they countered really well – as much down to our organisation and kick-chase.
“It’s an exciting week, still a chance of winning a series in South Africa, being 19-3 up at half-time, we have to believe we can do it. I know we can. The reviews aren’t pretty but we’ve got to get through them and build a buzz for the game on Saturday.”
Nor, Murray insisted, will Irish minds begin to wander towards the beach as the men in green prepare for their 17th and final Test of what will have been a near-52-week campaign since they checked into pre-World Cup training last June 29.
“I don’t think we are (tired), we’re raring to go. I think we’re really angry with ourselves.
“Personally and as a group, I think we left a lot out there and we could have snatched it at the weekend so I think there’s such motivation there, genuinely.
There’s massive motivation, there’s no danger of us looking beyond this game, looking to our holidays.
“This a chance at history. It would have been unbelievable to have won at Ellis Park and very disappointing the way it ended but we’ve got a chance now to win a series in South Africa which is very, very difficult and very, very rare.
“I can assure you everyone is looking at that and no further.”
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