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Johnny Sexton Defends Conor Murray Amid Scrum-Half Debate

Sexton Murray

It’s the selection debate which just doesn’t seem to go away. Andy Farrell has opted for the experienced Conor Murray ahead of John Cooney for the second week in succession. 

Murray will line out against Wales on Saturday with Cooney on the bench and the subject of the Limerick scrum-half was raised once again at Thursday afternoon’s press conference at the IRFU’s High-Performance Centre.

The Limerick man’s form over the last 12 months hasn’t hit the lofty heights he set for so long throughout his career. Among Murray’s many talents is his physicality around the ruck, standing at 6’2″, the scrum-half offers a threat with snipes around the edges but in recent months, those moments and resulting tries seem to have dried up somewhat.

Murray Sexton

A question whether this was down to form or a tactical decision was put to Sexton and the Ireland captain was quick to outline his defence of his half-back partner.

“A little bit of both, probably,” Sexton said.

“I thought Conor had a good game last week. When those opportunities present themselves, or if they present themselves, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go. But I don’t think they did last week. Some of that was the speed of the ball. We were playing a lot off unstructured play. At times we were… you know that phase of play where we were, came out, went down the touchline, got called back for a penalty for obstruction, probably we could have scored a try there and it was pretty good play.

Murray Sexton

“So there were lots of good points, there were lots of bad points as well that we’ve talked about that we hope to fix up this week.”

Sexton further explains that the opportunity to produce such moments are few and far between in the international game compared to provincial rugby.

“Conor has scope to go and snipe. But international rugby, it doesn’t always open up. It’s not like provincial rugby or even some Heineken Cup games. It’s proper Test match rugby. Last week was a proper Test match.

Sexton Murray

“The biggest problem for Conor is he’s had those games where he’s ripped up the All Blacks in Chicago, but then you become a marked man. Then sometimes the space isn’t there. It’s not as simple as ‘why didn’t that work? He didn’t do it this game.’ He’s played well. I watched his game against the Ospreys, he played well. He played really well last week. I’m sure he’ll play well again this week.” 

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email seanmc@punditarena.com or on Twitter