Jordi Murphy couldn’t get down the road to Limerick quickly enough.
Facing into an unwanted week off as Ireland prepped for South Africa, his dash south was prompted by a call from Joe Schmidt with an unusual twist.
Robbie Deans had been on wondering if there was a spare back row he could borrow for the Barbarians.
“I put my hand up straight away,” said Murphy who would bank 80 minutes and score a crucial late try in the Thomond Park win over Tonga.
“I had the week off so I said I’d love to be involved. I went down and there was some very interesting characters.
“The weather at the end of the week obviously wasn’t ideal to play some champagne Baa-Baas rugby, but it was a good experience and I’d always dreamed of playing for the Barbarians growing up so it was great to get my opportunity.”
The Baa-Baas knuckled down to business more and more as the week went on, but the club’s famous ethos blending fun with fluid attacking rugby was a long way removed from the more rigid strictures of life in an international team’s Test environment.
Especially one as demanding as Ireland’s under Joe Schmidt.
“I’d be lying if I said the Baa-Baas wasn’t more craic,” Murphy laughed.
His first Leinster and Ireland jerseys were framed and handed over to his dad and grandad and the famous black and white hoops will find a similar afterlife “once it’s washed”.
It has already served its primary purpose: As a stepping stone back to the kit he craves most.
It’s just over a year now since Murphy wrecked his cruciate in Chicago, bringing an end to a rampaging 25 minutes in which he scored the first of his side’s five tries against the All Blacks and marking the start of a long and arduous road back to full fitness.
Nine months were spent rehabbing and, having banked six appearances for Leinster this season, he finally gets to add an 18th Test cap to his name against Fiji after being called up to fill the voids left by the injured Tommy O’Donnell and Dan Leavy.
It goes without saying that he’s excited.
A sense of panic ensues when Conor Murray or Jonathan Sexton go down. When a back row, regardless of how good or experienced he may be, picks up an injury any feelings of alarm are swamped by the realisation that the larder remains full.
Even Jamie Heaslip realises that.
If anything highlighted those stocks then it was the fact that Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony were left at home for the Windy City trip last year due to doubts as to their match fitness and both ended up playing major roles for the Lions this summer.
That conveyor belt continued to deliver competition during the summer when Jack Conan, Dan Leavy, Sean Reidy, and Jack O’Donoghue all bagged game time between the US and Japan while Murphy was in the final phase of his convalescence.
No pressure then.
“Yeah. As soon as I got injured there was two or three lads coming back in and there was no problem filling the void.
“A lot of lads played well during the season and we had three back rowers going on the Lions. A few lads put up their hands as well on the summer tour. Sure I wasn’t in the squad until (this week). It just shows you how quick things can change.
“The game is attritional and there are a lot of injuries so you just have to be ready to step in whenever you get the chance. I’m grateful to get that opportunity this weekend.”
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