Brian O’Driscoll – “[His] Pass Is The Best Pass In Ireland. He Is Someone That Exudes A Calmness.”
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Former Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll reckons a some of the criticism that has been thrown Conor Murray’s way in the last year or so has been unwarranted and he feels the Munster nine still has the best pass in the country.
Murray has struggled to reach his lofty heights of 2017 and 2018 in recent seasons but continues to be back at international level with Murray set to start against Italy once again on Saturday alongside long-term halfback partner Johnny Sexton.
There have been calls for John Cooney to replace him in the national set-up in the past but the Ulsterman wasn’t even named in Farrell’s Six Nations squad with Kieran Marmion and Jamison Gibson-Park getting the nod alongside Murray instead.
Murray has struggled with injury in recent weeks and may not be at 100% for the visit of Italy having only featured briefly against Edinburgh on his return. But O’Driscoll thinks even a Conor Murray at 80% is a force to be reckoned with.
“I understand why an 80% capacity Conor Murray is still very much to be reckoned with,” O’Driscoll told us.
“The calm, the influence he brings, the comfort and confidence he generates in guys who have played with him for 10 years and the guys just coming in who see what he does in training, never gets flustered, plugging all the holes, doing all the clever things.
“I’ve always been a huge Conor Murray fan and continue to be, even though he’s not at the height of some of his previous contribution over the last 10 years.”
In terms of his passing, O’Driscoll said there’s no one better in the country. And that’s the most important thing to remember when selecting your first-choice nine.
“Conor Murray’s pass is the best pass in Ireland,” O’Driscoll continued.
“What should your scrum-half be doing better than everybody else? It’s passing the ball. I think it’s Conor Murray, then John Cooney, then Jamison Gibson-Park, then Kieran Marmion, purely on the passing level.
“For me, if you’re the best passer, you’re in a strong position straight away.
“Conor Murray has hit some pretty lofty heights in the last 10 years and he’s not at that level in the last two years since the Lions tour and the Grand Slam year.
“But he is someone that exudes a calmness and an influence on those around him. That lack of panic counts for a huge amount. It feels like he’s going to make good decisions more often than not.
“I don’t think the speed of decision is as strong as it was in the past. He feels a little more formulaic that he was in the past, I’d love to see the natural footballer in him come out more because he’s a great footballer and he reads the game well.
“I think we need a little more from him in an attack perspective but he’s playing to a game plan in Munster where he’s box-kicking a lot. I don’t think Conor Murray is just choosing himself to box-kick the ball, he is being told that’s the way Munster need to go.
“I do feel that some of the flak he’s gotten is somewhat unwarranted.”
The full interview with O’Driscoll is available now on Episode 10 of the Up and Under Podcast.
Guinness teamed up with Sene Naoupu and Brian O’Driscoll to announce a partnership with Canterbury, Intersport Elverys, and the IRFU in support of the sale of the newly-released Irish Women’s Rugby team jerseys across its retail sites; the Guinness Webstore and Guinness Open Gate Brewery from 21 October while stocks last.
Ireland will resume their Six Nations campaign when they welcome Italy to Energia Park on Saturday, 24th October at 18:30 and will conclude their campaign away to France in Le Stadium (Nord Lille Metropole) on Sunday, 1st November at 13:30. While there is disappointment among fans, for whom there was a greater demand than ever for tickets, people can still show their support for the Ireland Women’s Rugby team by watching their remaining two games on RTÉ.