Ireland half-backs Sexton and Murray bringing buzz to squad – Murphy

Murray and Sexton ran the show in Ireland’s 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam.

By Press Association Published: 19 September 2019 - 8.17am
Rugby Union


Half-backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton have boosted Ireland’s “buzz” ahead of Sunday’s World Cup kick-off, according to Richie Murphy.

Skills coach Murphy waxed lyrical over Ireland’s British and Irish Lions playmakers, describing Murray as “sharp” and Sexton “very hungry” with the Yokohama clash against Scotland inching closer.

Murray and Sexton ran the show in Ireland’s 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam but have both since had to battle for form and fitness.

Ireland v Italy – Guinness Summer Series – Aviva Stadium
Ireland skills coach Richie Murphy thinks the two Irish half-backs will make a big impact (Donall Farmer/PA)

Munster scrum-half Murray missed the latter chunk of 2018 after a neck injury while reigning world player of the year Sexton has fought off thumb and leg complaints.

The exalted duo eased back into familiar rhythm and tempo in Ireland’s 19-10 warm-up win over Wales in Dublin though – and now Murphy has backed both to help deliver “a massive World Cup”.

“Conor picked up that knock earlier on in pre-season but he’s bounced back really well, he looks sharp, his passing is good,” said Murphy.

“Johnny’s in really good form. Obviously, he’s only had one game coming into the World Cup which is probably not exactly what he would have wanted.

“He would have wanted to play more. That’s where he’s at. He’s in really good shape physically, mentally very hungry, and he’s looking forward to a massive World Cup, as all our players are. He’s in a really good place.

“There’s a nice buzz around the two guys when they’re training and they’re leading within the group.”

Andy Farrell declared Keith Earls and Rob Kearney available for selection on Wednesday, but both backs still have to come through Friday’s training session to be ready to face the Scots.

Earls has been battling back from a thigh issue, while Kearney has been hampered by a calf complaint.

Leinster Rugby v Ulster Rugby – European Champions Cup – Quarter Final – Aviva Stadium
Leinster’s Jordan Larmour could come in for Rob Kearney (Donall Farmer/PA)

Jordan Larmour would likely slot in at full-back in Kearney’s absence, with Andrew Conway a strong contender to step in should Earls miss out.

Even if Ireland are forced into a backline reshuffle, Murphy insisted Joe Schmidt’s men will be able to cope under the high ball.

Asked if he would be confident of Ireland’s aerial defence without linchpin high-ball specialist Kearney, Murphy said: “Extremely confident. We picked 31 players that we feel can all do the job for us.

“If, for instance, Rob wasn’t there, we’d be very happy with Jordan, he’s got a lot of big-game experience.

“Bomber (Conway) has played back there as well, so if it is a case that Rob’s not there, we’d be very happy with the guys.

“They understand the systems, they’ve been working in them for three-and-a-half years, Jordan since he’s come into the squad. They should be very comfortable within the systems.

“The weather’s changing. It’s very hard to know and we’ll just have to keep an eye on it over the next few days.

“Two days ago, it looked like it was going to be the worst rain shower we’ve ever seen. Now, it’s saying it will be dry. We’ll have to wait and see.

“I think everyone wants dry weather, no one really wants to play in the rain. We’ll have to adapt, World Cups are all about adapting, whether that’s in the team or what the conditions are or how a referee interprets a rule. You have to adapt all the time.”