There is plenty of time, perhaps too much, for Ireland’s players to consider their Grand Slam fate but Conor Murray believes the muted response to last Saturday’s Six Nations title success is a good indication that the countdown to Twickenham will proceed in an orderly fashion.
As the nation licks its lips and dares to dream of Ireland’s first Grand Slam since 2009 following a third Six Nations championship in five seasons, the bubble so often cited by head coach Joe Schmidt as the protective blanket enveloping his players can only go so far in keeping his squad focused on the task at hand.
Even the absence of any injury concerns in the Ireland medical update issued yesterday means aspirations to match the heroes of 09 and their only predecessors in 1948 will be difficult to ignore.
Yet getting past England to do so remains quite another matter.
Particularly on their own ground and against a side smarting from consecutive defeats and the end of their three-in-a-row title bid as well as gunning for vengeance after Ireland smashed their own hopes of back-to-back Slams in Dublin 12 months ago.
So the fact Ireland did not get ahead of themselves last weekend after beating Scotland and seeing England defeated in France was a positive.
“Yes I think so, that’s a good point,” Murray said. “If we had won it and there was a lot of celebration on the pitch or whatever, then it would have been a lot more difficult this week.
“I think the fact that we won it while we were sitting down having dinner and there wasn’t that much celebration (is a good thing).
“I think it actually shows the mentality of the group, that we want something a little bit more.
Beating England at Aviva Stadium a year ago serves Murray, who was sidelined by a shoulder injury at the time, as a vivid reminder of the anticlimax that can strike a week after wrapping up the title when the Holy Grail becomes unattainable.
“That’s something you don’t want to do. You want it to all go well and be full of joy at the end of the game on Saturday.
“What happened with England last year was fantastic for us and the way they celebrated, the air was a little bit out of their tyres.
“That’s not something I’m th“It’s about going over to Twickenham and putting in a performance that puts you in a position to win.
“Like I said, the way we reacted on Saturday when we knew we had won it, it shows a lot about the group. Then everyone is back in this week, excited, recovering well, ready to train and get stuck into the week.
That England will be seeking retribution for the 13-9 defeat a year ago has not escaped Murray but similarly the Munster and Lions number nine believes avoiding a similar fate will be equally motivating for Ireland this week.
“Oh, that’s definitely a part of the motivation. You want it to all go well and celebrate a victory along with that. Because there is one thing there, the trophy is there, that performance against England away is as big, if not bigger. And that’s the way the group feels.
“There is going to be a lot distractions, there is going to be a lot of people looking for tickets and all that kind of carry on, and it’s just about not worrying about that and focusing on the rugby, which is what we’re here to do. And all that hype and distraction can take care of itself. We don’t need to worry about it.”
Murray said there was no denial within the Irish squad about what is on the line this weekend in London but despite the cup final element to it, that did not mean Ireland would be going about this game any way differently to all those have gone before.
“No. It doesn’t change. We still prepare as we always do,” he said.
“I think you’ve just got to ask lads. It’s in their heads. Everyone knows what’s at the end of this week. It is a final.
“It might just add to the buzz, the excitement around the place, the nervous energy, whatever it is, that combines.
“The structure of the week doesn’t change. We are in a match week now. We are very used to this. It is just about dealing with the type of week this is.
Winning the Grand Slam, Murray admitted, “would be right at the top”.
“Thankfully there has been a few really good days in big games. There are amazing feelings, this is going to be massive.
“This is something that hasn’t been done all that often, twice (by Ireland), so it is going to be up there if it goes well, it would be right up there.”
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