Murray recalls one of his worst days in green

Conor Murray is a maker of moments.

A scrum-half who pushes the envelope and takes the game to the opposition when and how he can.

Eleven tries in 63 games speak volumes for that.

So it is no surprise when, rather than wait for the inevitable litany of questions on Cardiff 2015, he assumes the initiative and raises the spectre of that gut-wrenching World Cup quarter-final loss to Argentina at the then Millennium Stadium.

“I kind of knew it was going to come up anyway!” he offers with an easy laugh.

“It was probably one of the worst days in an Irish jersey for a load of reasons. It was a game where you had a really good chance to make a semi-final of a World Cup.”

Joe Schmidt has referenced that game ad infinitum in the time since, but the players have been of one voice this week, sticking to the party line that this is not some opportunity for revenge and a belated sense of closure.

“I have got to stress that (2015) is not part of my motivation, but if you were just to speak about it as a game on its own, it is a game that does… it would haunt you a small bit because it is the ‘what could have been’. It’s like getting knocked out of any tournament.”

Besides, Murray has fond memories of the South Americans, too.

He was just a kid back home in Patrickswell when he sat glued to the TV as Ireland edge Argentina in the 2003 World Cup in Adelaide and he still gets a kick out of how Alan Quinlan will claim to this day that his crucial try ‘saved Irish rugby’.

Watching briefs have been few and far between in more recent years, but Murray’s load was lightened last weekend when, on being excused duty for the Fiji game, he worked a groove on the sofa beside his mum and sister and took in the game.

“It was my mother’s birthday last week and I was in camp so we ordered a sushi takeaway to my house and threw on the fire and watched the game. It was a different experience because you were there a week ago and then a week later you’re at home watching it on TV, which was strange.”

With South Africa humbled 38-3, it has all made for a much more relaxing November than this time 12 months ago when he faced New Zealand twice and Australia. And it feeds off a late start to the season arising from his summer exertions with the Lions.

“I got home from the Lions and needed the rest because it was a long tour. Got a pre-season and I was happy with the way it started with Munster. South Africa was a decent, solid performance. We were very clinical. It was a weird type of game.

“We finished off a few chances and that was it. It was a strange feeling and then the week off but, as I said, I feel really happy with where I am. It’s the last game in November and everyone wants to leave this series with a good performance both collectively and personally.

“You can feel it out there at training. It’s a chance to put in a performance that can bring us forward to the Christmas camp and keep on building. It’s not just about getting to the end of November. It’s about going on again.”

For Argentina, Saturday will be a full stop as opposed to just a comma.

Between Jaguares and Pumas duties, the tourists are almost 11 weeks into a season littered with defeats and long-haul flights, but Murray does a good job in talking them up without ever eradicating the sense that they are a side on their last legs.

In fairness, the roll call is impressive in itself: Martin Landajo, Nicolas Sanchez, Joaquin Tuculet, Agustin Creevy.

“They have grown as a squad. Playing against New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa so regularly, when they joined the Rugby Championship, they said they are going to play against these teams so much they are going to get better and that is exactly what has happened.

“They challenge any team, absolutely. It’s a big challenge for us this weekend and we want to finish on a high so it is going to be a massively competitive game and they will be the same. They are an emotional group as well, any game they are up for it and they don’t go away easily. It’s going to be exciting. Can’t wait.”


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