Gordon D’Arcy believes Conor Murray will need to stamp his authority in their Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens in order to fill the void left by Joey Carbery.
Carbery has been deemed as “highly unlikely” to start the game after being withdrawn during their quarter-final win over Edinburgh after 36 minutes with the hamstring injury that prematurely ended his Six Nations campaign.
Tyler Bleyendaal is expected to step in at fly-half and while the New Zealander has vast experience, D’Arcy maintains that Murray will have to be back to top form to control the game, easing the pressure on his number 10.
“[Carbery] will be a big loss if Conor Murray is unable to make his mark on the game. If Conor is able to make his mark on the game, it won’t be as obvious a miss. He’s the key man for this”, remarked D’Arcy at the launch of the Aviva Stadium tours.
“I’ll try and spin a negative into a postive, rather than it being about Joey not being there, there’s an opportunity for Conor to really drive the game, as he has done previously.”
Murray will turn 30 on Saturday and a place in his first European Cup final would be the ideal present. The Limerick man has only one piece of silverware from his Munster career, a Magners League medal in 2011.
That fact wouldn’t concern D’Arcy too much but he maintains that Munster must get over the psychological block that has seen them lose six Heineken Cup semi-finals since they last won the competition in 2008.
“I was 29 when I played my first final, so it’s hard, you’ve got to earn it. It took me 11 years in the professional era to win a trophy but they can come thick and fast once you get there.
“For this group, they need to get into a final. Unfortunately, they have picked a pretty hard one to try and pick as their one to win. They will need a little bit of luck to win. I don’t think it’s crucial to this group’s development that they have to win.
“They are on a rebuilding process and it has only started with Johann van Graan properly. It stalled with Rassie Erasmus. It was a false dawn in lots of ways. That year doesn’t count in their regeneration of the squad. Van Graan has got the beat of Munster now.
“This year while they need to perform, it can’t be a washout like it was against Racing last year. Performance is more important because if they play as good as they can this year and they don’t win, there is a lot of that that can carry over next year.”
Although D’Arcy maintains that overcoming Saracens will be a tough ask for van Graan’s men, he believes that Munster will have a plan to counteract their main threats.
“You see some of the soundbytes coming out from Saracens that they worry about Peter O’Mahony but they have a plan for Tadhg Beirne, I’d be surprised if that wasn’t reciprocated.
“Maro Itoje is going to be well marked I’m sure, Owen Farrell will get the hard end of Peter O’Mahony’s shoulder at some point in the game.”