MUNSTER and Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray is relishing the responsibility that comes with developing into a team leader at both provincial and international level.
Murray is currently in his third week of pre-season training with Munster and looks set to make his seasonal debut in the province’s Guinness PRO12 round two clash with Benetton Treviso on the weekend of September 12-14.
Murray is keen to play down the notion that he might be feeling pressure having established himself as a key figure for Munster and Ireland.
Conor Murray said: “Pressure? It is what I love doing and you want to do it to the best of your ability. When you are younger you dream of playing in the big games, of being a big player or whatever they want to label you as. I enjoy that responsibility.
“Over the last couple of years I found myself getting a bit better and becoming more confident and trusting myself more with that added so called pressure. I don’t see it as pressure, you are in two great teams where all your team mates are going to work for you. There is no one out on their own making decisions on their own or getting hung out to dry. I am pretty comfortable in it and am enjoying it. It is something I love doing and the bigger the game there are probably more nerves, but I enjoy it a bit more.”
Murray’s meteoric rise in rugby saw the Patrickswell man go from playing for Garryowen in a Munster Senior Cup final to the elevated heights of making the 2013 Lions squad in the space less than two and a half years.
A cool customer, Murray took the whirlwind journey in his stride.
“Surprised by how things went? I dunno. I suppose you take it one step at a time. We are coming into a World Cup year, so nearly four years ago it was that the World Cup down in New Zealand. There were years prior to that when I was making strides.
“Each opportunity that comes your way, you either have to take it or you don’t. I suppose I got a few games and managed to do well. As those games you on, you learn.
“Things happen in steps and you gain experiences along the way. To me, it was week by week, game by game, trying to best foot forward and trying to put my hand up for selection. Right now it is week on week. I am thinking about the fitness session I am doing later on today.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, 25-year-old Murray says he still has further room for improvement.
“I have a good bit (to improve on). You never play the perfect game. There are always things I am annoyed with in a game no matter how well we play.
“I remember we played Toulouse in the Heineken Cup quarter-final. That was a great day overall, but there were a few bits that annoyed me in my own game.
“I have talked to Joe (Schmidt), to Axel (Foley) and Greig Oliver about improving my game this year. Those times, Six Nations, Lions tour, they were successful, but a week later no one is really talking about them. You want to win the next big thing. That comes with Munster first this year and obviously it’s a huge year for Ireland. I want to improve as a player.
“Right now I am in the third week of my pre-season with Munster. During the four weeks off you probably lose a small bit of fitness. It is important to keep ticking over.
“I have another four or five weeks of pre-season to go. It could be a huge year for the province and country so I want to make sure I am in the best shape I can be so I hit the ground running when I do start to play. Pre-season usually takes eight weeks. I hope to return to play in Guinness PRO12 week two.”