Conor Murray hopes Joe Schmidt will take stock of Ireland’s potential and elect to stay and guide the national team to better things after an encouraging summer tour to South Africa.
The Irish scrum-half is just back in training with Munster after a long year that culminated in a memorable but ultimately disappointing 2-1 series defeat to South Africa.
The haunting negative of that series outcome was tempered by Ireland’s first test win on South African soil, after the men in green had come agonisingly close on a previous 1980 visit.
Murray hopes the promise shown will entice Schmidt to plough on. “As a player, especially with Ireland, coaches change; they come in and out of your life and make an impression on you, they each leave marks on you in different ways,” said Murray.
“Joe was brilliant for me personally, and for Ireland he has been unbelievable in terms of the success that he has brought. He got us believing that we were good enough to beat anyone and I don’t really think we ever truly believed that before.
“If you ask me, if I’d like him to stay. He’s a winner and he wants to keep winning. It would be great. If he decides to move on, to the Lions or New Zealand or whatever, you’d wish him the best of luck. He’s made a lasting impression on Irish rugby. But you’d like him to stay because he’s a coach who gets the best out of players.”
Murray must now adjust to life under a new Munster coach, following the appointment of South African Rassie Erasmus. Such bedding-in periods inevitably bring anxious moments.
“You are always worried whether a new coach will rate you, like you enough to pick you in his team. I will feel the same with Munster this season.
“I’m not back yet so I was only in the day before yesterday to pick up a few things. I met Rassie in Johannesburg before we played South Africa and he just seemed like a really enthusiastic guy who knows his rugby.
“It’s a new philosophy, a new voice. Zeebs said there’s a lot of emphasis on physicality and dominating your opposition, which is very South African.
“The way we’ve been trying to play in the breakdown, we’ve been using it for the last year and it’s still there.”
Murray doesn’t entertain any talk of transition, hoping Munster can click straight into winning ways under the new regime.
“Silverware-wise, it’s 2011 since we won anything. We had the [Pro12] final the year before last but we got to the final and definitely didn’t deserve to win it, so I would view that as us not being good enough to win it.
“Definitely, it’s something that’s missing at the moment. I really want to win something with Munster again, with your home team. It’s not an eagerness to start a new chapter. It’s an eagerness to kick on and I think Jacques (defence coach Nienaber) and Rassie hopefully will give us that boost we need to be more competitive.
“It starts with them but it’s the players — myself, Earlsy, Zeebs, and a few others have been here for a while and we want to win something.
“It’s not as if we need a bedding-in period or a transition phase. We need to do a lot of hard work in pre-season. It’s going to be massive for us to hit the ground running.
“We need to understand how we want to play. It’s not as if we need a year to figure it out with Rassie; it has to be pretty much immediate. The way he’s coaching and the way we’ve been playing are quite similar, with just a few tweaks and the physicality thing, the South African emphasis will be different.”
Can Thomond Park become a fortress again?
“You can do all your marketing and advertising but it is players who put bums on seats. It’s down to us, the rugby we play and the results we get.
“When we really needed the support at the end of the year, it was there for us and helped us to get over the line. While they were pressure games to play in, and people mightn’t think they were enjoyable, the atmosphere from the crowd was willing us to win, they were almost angered that we weren’t going to win.
“And it would have been unimaginable had we not qualified for the Champions Cup. A really bad thing. But we’re in it.
“It’s a tough group but that will mean big nights and huge crowds and then it turns on us to perform.”
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