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Murray: I Couldn’t Think Of A Better Group To Reach 100 Caps With

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He is the first scrum half to reach the century milestone, having had a rapid rise as a 22-year-old to play at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and shown impressive consistency over the years in the number 9 jersey.

The Limerick man has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland, including the 2018 Grand Slam, and two Triple Crowns. His 15-try haul includes his famous score against New Zealand in Chicago six years ago.

Asked about what it will mean for him to join some of his former team-mates in the 100-cap club, Murray said: “It will be a very proud day for me, for my family more importantly with the commitment they’ve shown to be at pretty much all the games.

“I couldn’t think of a better group of players to reach that milestone with, given how competitive we are, what we’ve done in the last year.

“It’s incredible, it’s probably the first full year I’ve spent not starting and, oddly enough, it’s been the most enjoyable year or two. It is a a hugely proud moment (to reach 100 caps) and it’s a privilege, a cool list to be on.”

That list of legendary Irish Rugby figures includes two of Murray’s current team-mates, Cian Healy and Jonathan Sexton, and Paul O’Connell, the current Ireland forwards coach and the scrum half’s former captain at Munster.

It is made up of Brian O’Driscoll (133), Ronan O’Gara (128), Rory Best (124), Healy (118), O’Connell (108), Sexton (108) and John Hayes (105).

Murray has played in three World Cups and toured three times with the British & Irish Lions, helping them to win the 2013 Series in Australia. He was voted onto World Rugby’s Team of the Decade for 2010-2019.

At the heart of Murray’s outstanding international career is his ever-enduring half-back partnership with Jonathan Sexton. The pair will start together for Ireland for the 65th time this weekend, 14 short of the world record set by Australia’s Stephen Larkham and George Gregan.

The possessor of a top class pass and excellent kicking skills, whether of the box-kicking variety or a long range penalty strike, the 33-year-old Munster star has had his starting opportunities limited by the form of Leinster’s Jamison Gibson-Park.

However, he remains a quality operator and, at the start of a new international season, is determined to put his best foot forward ahead of a massive year for Andy Farrell’s men.

“In the last year or two my opportunities to start have reduced and it’s about having that drive – listen to the coaches, see what they want from you,” said Murray.

“The competitive spirit is still there. My goal is to get starting and be the number 9 in the Irish team and that’s always been my goal. It takes a bit of getting used to. It refocuses you.

“Jamison has been playing brilliantly over the last year and that’s driving the standards of myself and Craig (Casey) and whoever else comes in.

“With the type of game we’re playing, Andy and Mike (Catt) are very open and honest and that’s something that players really appreciate.

Sometimes previously – and you hear it from other players as well – coaches can give them willy-nilly excuses. It could be anything.

“Like, it’s very easy for a coach to say, ‘look, a few of your passes were down, and I want you to work on that’. Whereas they’ll give you the feedback that you definitely agree with because you’re probably seeing the same things as well.

“That’s something players really appreciate, so then you can go away and set up a list of goals, or a training routine, that will help improve that. I think that’s really refreshing, to have that type of feedback from coaches.”

Murray has faced South Africa on nine previous occasions with Ireland and the Lions, including last year’s first Test win during the Covid-19-impacted Lions Series in Cape Town.

He was victorious with the national team in 2014, 2016 and 2017, memorably running in a try during the 2016 first Test at Newlands Stadium which marked Ireland’s first ever triumph over the Springboks on South African soil.

He was of course coached by Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber at Munster, but it is his former provincial team-mate, South African assistant coach and European-based coaching consultant Felix Jones, who he is wary of in terms of potentially flipping the script.

“The Springboks try and impose themselves on other teams through physicality. Over the 10 years, their game-plan hasn’t historically changed too much, because it works,” he acknowledged.

“When it comes to World Cups and big competitions, they tend to be there or thereabouts because of the style of rugby that they play. Some call it low-risk or whatever – it’s rugby inside a phone box at times.

“They have a back-three that are really lethal, and if the game does break up they are guys that’ll really punish you.

“But I think you might see a certain picture on a Saturday and it could be completely different, because they’ve got Felix who likes to tinker with the plan.

“He’s quite an intelligent coach. That’s when it’s dangerous, when you think you know someone and then they present something different on the weekend.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


6 Nations

Ireland’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations Home Games To Be Played At Musgrave Park

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Ireland’s home matches in the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations will be played at Musgrave Park.

The Cork venue has been the home of the Ireland U20s since 2019 and has become a real fortress in recent seasons, with Ireland Women also enjoying huge support there when they defeated Italy at Musgrave Park in last year’s Six Nations.

Greg McWilliams‘ side open their 2023 Championship against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, 25th March (2.15pm) before welcoming France to Cork in Round 2 on Saturday, 1st April (3.15pm). After a rest weekend, Ireland will be on the road again, going head-to-head with Italy in Parma on Saturday, 15th April (4.45pm).

World Cup finalists England will visit Musgrave Park in Round 4 on Saturday, 22nd April (2.15pm) and the Championship will conclude with a trip to Edinburgh to take on Scotland at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday, 29th April (7.30pm).

“We received huge home support during last year’s Six Nations and we’re excited to make Cork our home base for the 2023 Championship,” McWilliams said. “We enjoyed a good day out against Italy last year, with the people of Cork coming out to support the team and we will be hoping for more of the same in 2023, as two of the best teams in women’s rugby come to visit.”

Ticket details for Ireland’s home matches at Musgrave Park will be announced in due course.

TikTok Women’s Six Nations Fixtures 2023:

  • Wales v Ireland, Saturday 25 March, Cardiff Arms Park, 2.15pm
  • Ireland v France, Saturday 1 April, Musgrave Park, 3.15pm
  • Italy v Ireland, Saturday 15 April, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 4.45pm
  • Ireland v England, Saturday 22 April, Musgrave Park, 2.15pm
  • Scotland v Ireland, Saturday 29 April, DAM Health Stadium, 7.30pm.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Leading Rugby Stakeholders Unite To Consider Future Of Rugby

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Rugby’s major stakeholders have united to consider the short and long-term insights and priorities for ensuring the sport is a relevant, accessible and attractive sport for all as it grows over the next decade.

The World Rugby Shape of the Game conference, hosted in London, gathered leading coaching, playing, officiating, medical and event owner minds to consider how to build a better game for all, focusing on safety and spectacle. Underpinning that mission is the ongoing prioritisation of player welfare, while fostering an environment that is simpler, more accessible and more attractive.

It will be followed by similar conferences on the elite women’s 15s and community games as the sport looks to growth opportunities over the next decade. The process will also consider fan views and general sport and entertainment considerations to create a holistic approach to the future of the sport.

Over two days, delegates considered the global welfare landscape, including reinforcing the data regarding the relative safety of the community and age-grade game, global playing trends and the role of match officials, the narrative around the sport with all participants focused on the bigger picture.

The conference identified key areas for further exploration:

• Focus on the fan: Insights from fans and broadcasters to inform the longer-term development of the sport as an entertainment product

• Speed up the game: Focus on interventions and innovations to reduce stoppages, increase continuity and the rhythm of the game

• Support match officials: Provide them with the tools to perform their role to their best ability, consider TMO intervention reductions

• Underpin with player welfare: Continue to implement evidence-based strategies to mitigate head injuries and overall injuries in the sport

• Change the narrative: The community game is the lifeblood of the sport, the risk of injury is much less than that of the elite game, focus on the benefits while managing the risks

World Rugby will take away the considerations and insights for further exploration to prioritise areas that can be implemented in the short term without changing law ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said:

“As a sport, a movement and a family, we must always challenge ourselves to be better. That means taking time to consider what fans and players want the future of our sport to be, a future where more people want to play and support the game, where injury risk is reducing and where all involved in the game have their say.

“This conference was the first step towards a reimagination of our sport. The full and frank contributions from a wide spectrum of disciplines gives us plenty to consider and to move forward with through our structures. I would like to thank all participants for taking time out at a busy time to unite, collaborate and consider our future.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

England side to face Springboks

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England host the Springboks at Twickenham Stadium in their final Autumn Nations Series game on Saturday 26 November (5.30pm KO).

Manu Tuilagi will make his 50th appearance for England at outside centre, having made his debut for England against Wales in August 2011. Owen Farrell will again captain the side at inside centre.

Marcus Smith is at fly half and Jack van Poortvliet is at scrum half. Tommy Freeman comes in at right wing, Jonny May is at left wing and Freddie Steward is full back.

Jamie George (hooker) and Mako Vunipola join fellow prop Kyle Sinckler in two changes to the starting front row. Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill stay at lock. Alex Coles comes in at flanker with Tom Curry, while Billy Vunipola is No.8.

Last weekend’s double-try scorer Will Stuart is named as a finisher along with Luke Cowan-Dickie, David Ribbans, Sam Simmonds, Ben Youngs, Henry Slade and vice-captains Ellis Genge and Jack Nowell.

“This is our last game of the autumn and our chance to continue building on the improvements we have made throughout the matches,” said Jones. “We have made steady progress from game-to-game, culminating in a pulsating draw against New Zealand.

“Now we have the chance to test ourselves against the might of the world champions. We’re going out there to light the crowd up. The support at Twickenham was outstanding last week and we want to work hard on the pitch to make sure we have another atmosphere like that again on Saturday.”

Squad

Starters

15. Freddie Steward

14. Tommy Freeman

13. Manu Tuilagi

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Jonny May

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Mako Vunipola

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Jonny Hill

6. Alex Coles

7. Tom Curry

8. Billy Vunipola

Finishers

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie

17. Ellis Genge

18. Will Stuart

19. David Ribbans

20. Sam Simmonds

21. Ben Youngs

22. Henry Slade

23. Jack Nowell


Images & Content from England Rugby
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