Johne Murphy has quashed any suggestions Munster will struggle once the province’s ‘golden era’ retires.
The former Leicester player believes the proof is in the pudding and cited the quality of young players forcing their way onto the squad as a sign that Munster will once again challenge for the Heineken Cup.
“There are several high-quality players coming through with the ability to go all the way,” he said.
“Peter O’Mahony made his debut against Australia last year and he is now playing for Ireland. He’s in the 22 consistently and that just shows you they [simply] need opportunities. Ian Nagle, Dave Foley in the second row, there are two guys ready to really kick on when the chance arises.
“There are positions all over the place filled. We’ve got a lot of slack from different corners saying they haven’t brought through the young guys, but the age dynamic of the group — myself and Tomás brought the age profile of the backs up seriously last weekend, and I’m only 27.
“That’s something that should excite people because there are guys there ready to jump into those positions.
“People will look at it and wonder. They’re worried that when the so-called golden era of Irish rugby moves on, are there guys ready? Well it just shows with the age dynamic of our squad, it’s a perfect example of yes, there are guys ready to fill the voids those guys leave behind.”
Having watched as Tony McGahan gradually but regularly introduced new blood in recent seasons, Murphy believes incoming coach Rob Penney is likely to continue the trend and he also hopes it might provide him with a personal opportunity.
“It’s a clean slate for everyone. The first day of pre-season is like going into a new job. I’ve been through it before in England and there’s a real buzz around the place and everyone is trying to put their best foot forward.”
Murphy has already carried out his own investigation on Penney, through former Leicester colleague Aaron Mauger, the ex-All Black.
“Well, I spoke to Aaron a couple of weeks ago when I started to hear about Rob Penney. Mauge knows him quite well from Canterbury, and he couldn’t speak highly enough of him. That’s a huge, huge thing. Mauge is probably one of the best rugby players I’ve played with. His rugby brain is excellent and for him to say Rob is that good is something we can all really, really look forward to.”
A fresh voice, he admitted, could be just what is needed.
“Yeah, it can have a massive impact. It can change your whole philosophy and outlook on rugby. There’s no limit to what he can change. Some people may think that can be a bad thing, that we’ll get away from what we do. But as long as we all embrace it, we’re always going to have the Munster culture, the Munster work ethic.”
On a personal level, Murphy feels his form hasn’t been better and he’s happy to have nailed down a new two-year contract.
“Mentally I think I’m in a lot better place than I was this time last year. Form-wise, I’m certainly a lot better and I think this year has probably been a consistent one. Hopefully we have two games left so that I can show how much I have left to give.
“Yeah and I’m really enjoying it here. I have a good life. The banter here is pretty harsh at times but you take it and you give it as much as you can. My girlfriend lives in Kildare and to her place it’s an hour and 15 minutes, my family home [Rathangan] is probably about an hour away.
“I was chatting to my brother about it a week ago. I was at my goddaughter’s second birthday and I wasn’t able to do any of that when I was in England, so my life is good and I’m in a good place. It’s just about putting it all back on the pitch now.”
He will relish the opportunity of having game time in tomorrow night’s RaboDirect Pro12 semi-final against the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium, but figures it will be as tough a challenge as they’ve faced all season.
“Sure, it will be tough; Shane Williams is moving on. He’s retiring so it’s his last game at the Liberty. There are guys like that for whom it’s going to be huge. But it’s the same for us, for guys like Micko [Mick O’Driscoll], Tony [McGahan], Tomás [O’Leary] and Mafs [Lifeimi Mafi]. We want to send these guys off on a fantastic note by retaining the title.”
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