Conor Murray believes it is easy to ignore all the positive noise swirling around a buoyant Ireland squad as they begin their bid to win a first Test in Australia since 1979.
The newly-crowned Six Nations champions and Grand Slam winners will go into the opening Test against the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday with a hard-earned reputation as a major force in world rugby and the favourites tag to beat the 2015 World Cup finalists in their own backyard over a three-Test series.
Four days out from the opening rubber, Murray feels Ireland will not be distracted by all the flattery coming their way and will stay focused on their bid to end the season on a high.
“It is genuinely easy to ignore it. I think as a group we’re really good at it. As a group, we have our own goals and our own targets. We’re a tightly-knit group at the moment and not much gets in or out, which is fantastic, and we just focus on ourselves,” the scrum-half said.
“I don’t really see the value of it and everyone else would agree with me. We don’t see that. You can’t look to outside opinions and let it affect what you do during the week, it really can’t, so we just focus on what we’re doing and try and get ready as best as we can.
"Obviously, you hear things and you see it on your phone, but I think everyone in the group is wise enough to know that that doesn’t really matter. It’s about what we do and we know that, travel-wise we get here, we sort our bodies out, get our sleep and then train as well as we can and build into the week.
"That’s what we do and we try and do that as best we can and then get ready for the weekend.”
Murray, 29, is back in Australia as a player for the first time since 2013, when he was selected for the British & Irish Lions tour, enhancing his reputation with two telling appearances off the bench in the second and third Tests, as the Lions won a first series in 16 years.
Yet, Murray knows Ireland have to move forward from their Grand Slam-securing win last time out against England at Twickenham if he is to return from Australia with similar good feelings.
“I do have happy memories, obviously, with the Lions in 2013, but this is a completely different challenge. It’s an exciting one.
“We were in a good spot at the end of March. We’ve a lot of work to do to kind of make sure we step forward from that mark, where we left it on St Patrick’s Day. Coming up against the Aussies in their backyard, they’re a class side, they’ve got class players, they express themselves and they’re very hard to play against, especially defensively.
“I think this group, the success that we had the last time we were together was fantastic, we’ve all been aiming for that for quite a while, but we all want to finish this season on a high and we’re all really competitive that way.
“It’s a challenge to come here against one of the big-dog teams and put down a marker and to get a result down here is something everyone in our group wants to do, our coaching staff, the wider staff and our playing group. It’s a really competitive environment and I think we’re really good at that, just moving on and looking at the next target, our next challenge and this is great.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved