Munster and Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray has admitted that complacency may have crept into the side’s performances during their disappointing Six Nations campaign.
After a memorable 2018 season during which Ireland won the Grand Slam, recorded the first series win away to one of the major Southern Hemisphere teams in 39 years and beat the All Blacks in Dublin, Joe Schmidt’s side were brought sharply down to earth in a 32-20 loss to England in the first round of the 2019 Six Nations.
Matters did not improve by the end of the tournament as Wales recorded a 25-7 win over Ireland in the final game to secure the Grand Slam title.
It was a major wake-up call for Irish fans who had hoped that 2019 would be the year that Ireland qualify for the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time in history.
Speaking on the Will Greenwood Podcast, Murray admitted that the side set themselves certain standards based on their 2018 form and they failed to reach them.
“It was tough. A really tough Six Nations,” Murray said. “The standards we set for ourselves, we didn’t meet them.
“I think we might have thought we were in a different place to what we were,” he said, “Maybe there was a small bit of complacency that crept in.
“Little things happened, and I say little things but they ultimately cost us games and scores, but in terms of fixing them, we’d review and they wouldn’t happen again.”
Despite it not being ideal preparation in a World Cup year, Ireland have had five months to reflect and learn from their Six Nations mistakes. Schmidt’s side face England on Saturday in their second of four warm-up games before the tournament in Japan.
Given their success at international and domestic level, Murray maintains that the Irish players are experienced enough to put the disappointing Six Nations performances behind them and focus on the task at hand.
“The group is definitely experienced enough to get over that and realise why we lost – it wasn’t the end of the world, it was a few little things that went against us that we weren’t quite sharp enough on that cost us in the end.
“We didn’t wallow in it, we tried to learn from it and get over it as quickly as we could and move forward.
“We’ve had nearly eight weeks now of a pre-season block and that (Six Nations 2019) is well and truly a distant memory.
“That’s not to say that we won’t reference it or try to keep on learning from the things that happened. We certainly will do that, but this group is in a good place, quite optimistic and looking forward to playing rugby.”
Murray makes no secret of his desire to lift the Webb Ellis trophy, however, having experienced so much disappointment in his career, the Munster man is also a realist.
He insists that there can be no shying away from the fact that Ireland have never progressed past the quarter-finals stages but believes that they have the quality to do just that in 2019.
“Ireland not getting past the quarter-final is a fact and you’ve got to face it.
“This group and the quality we have in it and knowing what we can be capable of when we’re ticking, we know we can get past that stage and go further, but there’s a lot of work to do before we get there.
“I don’t think it’s a hoodoo, I don’t think that’s in this group’s mindset and hopefully it won’t be a fact too much longer.
“You’d be wasting your time if you were here for any other reason [than to win the Rugby World Cup].
“Every team going into this with a fighting chance can imagine themselves [lifting the trophy]. That’s the dream, that’s the pinnacle, that’s what you want to do and that’s why you willingly go through these pre-seasons with the chance to get on that World Cup stage and prove your worth.”