Shortly before Ireland’s opening World Cup win on Sunday, Jerry Flannery proclaimed that the nation has never been better prepared to perform at a World Cup.
Having taken on all comers and won at some point over the last two years it’s fair to say this is the best Irish side to ever compete in rugby’s showpiece event.
Despite the obvious depth in the squad, that doesn’t mean the 31-man panel selected came without its controversies, most notably, the exclusion of Devin Toner which left many perplexed.
However, the absence of Ulster’s Jordi Murphy may be more detrimental to this Irish side given his ability to play across each of the back-row positions.
The 27-time capped international recalled on Sunday how the news was broken to him that he wouldn’t be travelling to Japan.
“Obviously it’s not the phone call you ever want to get but there was always the possibility that it was coming. When Joe Schmidt pops up on your phone on a Sunday evening and they’re making selection calls, you know it’s not going to be good news,” Murphy told Pundit Arena.
“It’s one of those where you take the call and you’re listening but you’re not really there. There wasn’t much communication back and forwards. It was just Joe speaking and me listening and there’s not really much to say at that stage, the decision’s been made.”
Following news of his exclusion, Murphy was then asked to remain as part of the extended squad as preparations ramped up before leaving for the Far East.
Murphy admitted it was tough to take because everybody is talking about the World Cup but stressed it was important that he didn’t let his disappointment affect the mood in the camp.
“It’s tough to take and you want to be out there. It’s all anyone is talking about at the moment so it’s hard to get away from it as well but look I went into camp for those first two days and just kept the head down.
“I didn’t want to suck the energy out of the room every time I walked in because there’s obviously 31 other guys in there that’s been (selected). I know what it’s like to make a World Cup, it’s an incredible feeling so you don’t want to take that away from them at all so I just trained, did the meetings and tried to keep to myself.
“I was given the rest of the week off and I was back in with Ulster the following Monday which was probably the best thing for me. Being stuck on your own with your own thoughts can sometimes be the worst thing. So to be getting back into an environment with your close mates helps.”
Given the attritional nature of rugby and the fact that World Cup games come thick and fast, it would be no surprise to see Murphy called back in at some point.
While the former Leinster player stresses that he doesn’t wish ill on any of the squad he knows that being on stand-by means he has to stay fit and ready in case of any eventuality.
“We were told as soon as we went in with the 45-man squad on day one of pre-season that there’s going to be a couple of people cut between now and when the final 31-man squad is named but everyone who is here now is on stand-by so you know you’re on stand-by.
“You just keep your phone on and if the call comes, obviously, I’ll go back to it again. You’d never wish ill upon anyone but if you get an opportunity, you’re obviously going to want to grab it with both hands whether you go in from day one or you get a call in the last week. Just to be out there and be a part of it would be amazing.”
Despite not being part of the squad, Murphy had his fan’s cap on Sunday as he watched from Belfast as Ireland defeated Scotland 27-3 in their opening pool A game in Yokohama.
“It was great, a very impressive performance. The weather kind of dictated the game. It wasn’t going to be a loose, offloading game but the boys definitely got on top pretty quick and I thought they really physically dominated the Scots.
“Just in the pack obviously which showed for the first couple of tries, the boys really kind of dug deep and scoring a maul and those kinds of pick and goes close to the line is always great to see. Even out at the back seeing some of the hits from Garry (Ringrose) and Jacob (Stockdale) was really impressive so they really looked like they had the bit between their teeth from minute one, it was impressive.”
However, Murphy was left most impressed by the impact of Ireland’s bench against Scotland.
Chris Farrell and Jack Conan were both introduced early on to devastating effect and Murphy puts this down to the message sent out by Joe Schmidt in the build-up to test match rugby.
“That’s definitely always a message from Joe and the coaching staff. When you get called upon whether it’s minute one when you think you’re on the bench and someone goes down early or minute 75 where you want to come on and fit in but also make an impact.
“Chris Farrell was outstanding today. He’s such a big man, he wants to physically impose himself and he did that but he’s also got some great speed and he cut some quality lines today as well so, it was really great.
“I thought Jack Conan was quality as well. He was called upon pretty early for blood then after for Pete’s HIA so he must have got close to 65/70 minutes and he looked like he started, he was quality straight away.
“He’s just a quality player and for such a big man he’s got incredibly good footwork and good hands. He’s obviously got the physical side of it as well. He’s been there or thereabouts for the last couple of years but he’s really come into his own in the last season or two.”
Murphy will remain a fan of this Irish side for the time being but don’t be surprised if he finds himself on a plane to Japan before the World Cup is over.