Conor Murray in Ireland training (Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
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Being the focal point of criticism of Munster or Ireland gets to Conor Murray.
But he insists that after lockdown he has come back stronger and ready to reclaim his best form of old.
On the one hand, the talismanic scrum-half says he's happy to shoulder the responsibility of what went wrong in his province's PRO14 semi-final loss to Leinster.
Murray, 31, admits that the Reds should have varied their kicking game – but he insists that it was a team call to take that approach, and not just his.
And he confesses that he does get tired of being the target of the ire that can follow such performances and results.
"Yeah, I do," said Murray. "It's natural human emotion to get annoyed at what people say because you do see it or hear it back somehow.
"It's not an uneducated opinion…it's within the team plan sometimes and everyone has bought into it, it's not just me.
"It's not me going off on my own.
"And I'd just be interested to see people's review of the first Leinster game we played (the 27-25 defeat after lockdown).
"We kicked just as much and we won back a lot of that ball – and then that got us on the front foot and we played well.
"Whereas in the semi final, we didn't win back as much and we probably kicked a bit more and it looked like we were just kicking away possession.
"I think the way the season worked out – the type of games we were in, it might have looked like we were a bit restricted but the coaches definitely backed us to make a call and go with it. It was just the way the game worked out.
Munster's Conor Murray
(Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
"When kicks are long, that's on me fully, and I'll put my hand up and say it. "Thankfully they're not often long and they're contestable, and that's what we're trying to do and sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn't.
"But yeah, I get annoyed when people don't see it for what it is.
"Hopefully we can spread the load sometimes and vary our kicking game. But I think the fact that it's been such a useful tool for years, that's probably why people give out about it sometimes."
Murray, however, stresses that he is enjoying his rugby and hinted that he will be back to his swashbuckling best in the Six Nations clashes coming up with Italy and France.
He returned in great nick after lockdown and has put behind him the thigh problem that forced him off in that semi-final.
Murray had revealed in the summer that, after coming back from having a bulging disk in his neck, there was hesitancy in the back of his mind over going for short-range scores and a fear of being counter-rucked.
But he insists those issues have been dealt with, pointing to the two hits he made in defence "with no hesitation" after coming off the bench for Munster against Edinburgh last weekend.
"I felt really strong, felt no ill-effects off it…it's been like that for a while, which is great, physically I know I'm in great shape with my neck and everything else," he said.
"Psychologically, I did work on it because we all had time to reflect and see where we can improve and make adjustments and get back to right up there."
(Image: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)
Murray re-watched old games – "player-camming myself", he quipped – before he had gone through that "scary neck problem", as he describes it now.
"There was no hesitation getting my foot in really close to the ball and not worrying about being counter-rucked, and getting the ball away and having the confidence to go for those short-range scores which I know I'm very well capable of getting close to the line," he explained.
"Thankfully I'm on the right side of it (now). I feel great, and I'm not just saying that out loud when there's a bit of doubt – I genuinely feel great, I feel physically right up there and ready to go.
"I can't wait to get out there."
Part of the reason for that is the style of play that Ireland are being asked to play by Andy Farrell, who is looking to evolve their game.
"They really want us to back ourselves," he said.
"It’s a long time since we got the chance to go out and implement those learnings and fix them in a real, live game.
"I keep saying ‘excited’ because there’s a genuine air of excitement to develop our game.
"I think everyone is really enthusiastic about our game plan – the freedom within it, the ability to back your decision-making.
"They’ve given us a framework for us to express ourselves in and it should bring out the best in us.
"There’s an extra buzz at the moment because lads are really enjoying being back on a rugby pitch, to strip it all away and it’s pure enjoyment of playing the game.
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"That, married with the fact that there are points needed can be, yeah, liberating. You can express yourself and you’re able to back your own decisions so it’s really nice."
Of course these days are far from normal and Murray marvels at the fact that he is communicating with team-mates on Zoom, even if they are in the room next door at Carton House, where the squad are again staying.
When they eat, there are three players allowed per table – and the tables are big, round ones, to enable social distancing. The pods switch up on a daily basis so that players can get to know each other and to prevent cliques from forming.
"It's very different," said Murray. "It's like everyone at home, getting used to the social distancing, it's a very different type of camp but there are still things we can do.
"There is table tennis set up with different bats for everyone, everything very, very safe and things like that.
"I think your time away from the pitch, you've really got to schedule."
It is something that the players were already good at, of course. It is about keeping their minds busy. This weekend, for example, they would normally have headed home to spend time with family, but they're cocooned away in an attempt to prevent Covid from entering the bubble.
"It's tough, you're missing people from home," said Murray.
"Usually, you get to go home and you check in with your family pretty much and it gives you that kind of little bit of energy to come back to camp and go again.
"Obviously that's not there, you'll have to video call them at the weekend and catch up that way.
"But it is what it is, my family and girlfriend are very understanding at home about what needs to be done. We want to play rugby and to do that we have to make sacrifices.
"At the same time, we're also very, very lucky to be able to play given the potential restrictions around the place
"It's very different but we're all understanding that we're really lucky. So, it's great".