Jordi Murphy’s clenched jaw said it all.
Here he was, over an hour after Saturday’s loss to Wales and a game in which his candidacy for a place in Joe Schmidt’s World Cup squad took a bit of a beating, and he found himself having to offer his thoughts on it all to the waiting media. If having to face Justin Tipuric in the form the Welshman was in proved the short straw, then this was the one that must have broken the proverbial camel’s back given the nervous 24 hours or so he faced as the final squad was being chiseled into shape.
“I’m pretty disappointed with quite a few aspects,” Murphy offered by way of an opening. “I wasn’t happy with my breakdown work. I think we lost the battle there, but I’ve just got to park it and try and get better.”
The pat phrase is that there is always another game or another training session for a player to rinse out the disappointment of a bad performance. That wasn’t the case this time. Not with Schmidt burning the midnight oil on Saturday to finalise his chosen 31.
This was it, one last audition for the guys like Murphy standing on the razor’s edge even if the injury to Tommy O’Donnell in Cardiff three weeks ago eased the pressure on the runners and riders in the race for the back row spots and made Murphy’s place close to an inevitability.
Still, this wasn’t the time to stumble. The mixed zone in the Aviva Stadium is held in the spare third changing-room and on this evening the two TVs were turned on and churning out images of the Irish players jumping around a darkened Murrayfield in celebration of their retention of the Six Nations.
Murphy was there that night. He only played seven minutes against Scotland, but he featured in all five of Ireland’s games in the championship, starting the defeats of Italy and England at number eight in Jamie Heaslip’s absence.
Schmidt has frequently shown his faith in the versatile back row who found himself taking that can-do CV to unwanted heights by standing in at outside centre for the last stages on Saturday after Ireland’s injury woes left them short-staffed. The respite it gave him from Ireland’s difficulties in the breakdown area won’t have soothed the disappointment of a day that checked his charge for a significant World Cup role. Such is the nature of these things that Chris Henry’s place in the pecking order was boosted no end by the Leinster man’s troubles, with Ireland’s concession of 14 penalties just one of the sticks Schmidt could choose to beat them with this week.
“Yeah, he was pretty disappointed with the number of penalties we conceded,” said Murphy. “That’s one of the things that we base ourselves on. We had double the amount so it’s definitely one of the big work-ons.
“That’s not the kind of team we want to be. We don’t want to be giving other teams easy rides like that, especially when we have them in tough positions five metres from their own line. It’s just one of those things.”
The net effect to Ireland’s individual and collective ills, added to the stuttering win against Scotland, has been the loss of the momentum banked in Cardiff earlier this month, though that is a currency light enough on value if previous World Cup experiences are anything to go by. “Yes. We lost, but at least it’s not a World Cup game,” said Murphy. We’ve got a good opportunity to improve next week against a formidable side.
“We’re going to have to look at things at the start of the week and we’re going to have to improve significantly if we’re to do a job on England.”
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