Ireland learn and hope to move on from All Blacks defeat

Conor Murray and the Irish team go through their paces at training
Conor Murray and the Irish team go through their paces at training

The Ireland squad have been using the anguish of their last gasp defeat to the All Blacks in November to better prepare them for the forthcoming Six Nations.

It may have been back in November that Ireland lost 24-22 to the reigning World champions in Dublin - but it was the last time the squad had been together.

The Irish were seconds away from an historic first ever win over New Zealand - but a serious of silly mistakes and poor decision making in the last minute saw a converted try snatch the moment from them.

Ireland’s next assignment is their Six Nations opener against Scotland in Dublin on Sunday when they look to take back the Centenary Quiach trophy after a poor display in Murrayfield last year.

While it may not be the All Blacks, the preparation is just exactly the same for the visit of the Scots with Ireland wanting to make sure they get off to a solid start to this year’s championship.

British & Irish Lions scrumhalf, Conor Murray Murray admitted the squad have poured over their last-gasp defeat to New Zealand in analysis, in a bid to stamp out little errors that cost them victory in cruel fashion.

Keen not to linger on that All Blacks epic, the 24-year-old British Lion said: “That consistency element has definitely been a topic of discussion for a long time in our camp now.

“It was a great performance against New Zealand, we came agonisingly close and we don’t want to dwell on it for too long, but we must look back and draw on the positives too.

“I know a lot of rugby has been played since then, but that’s still our last performance.

“We’ve looked at that game in detail, identified areas where we could have improved, and we’ve got to take that forward now.”

The Munster man looks set to start against Scotland now that Eoin Reddan has been rated ‘highly doubtful’.

Man of the match in the Irish Wolfhounds 14-8 win over England Saxons, Isaac Boss has been recalled to the senior squad by Ireland boss Joe Schmidt and he also has Connacht’s Kieran Marmion available if required.

Although likely to start now, Murray rejected any notion of an easy passage into the number nine shirt.

Scotching talk Reddan’s injury would clear the way for him to start, Murray said: “No definitely not, it’s exactly the same pressure as before.

“Bossy’s there and Kieran Marmion is knocking around as well, so to be honest I’m just trying to focus on my own game and making sure I’m as sharp as I can be if I get the nod.

“I’m just trying to look after my own corner and make sure I can give everything I can.”

Cardiff’s Munster-bound loose forward Robin Copeland has kept his place in Ireland’s training squad after impressing in last weekend’s Wolfhounds victory at Kingsholm.

Murray hailed the back-rower as a good signing for Munster for next term, but also someone who could yet force his way into Six Nations action this term.

Head coach Schmidt is expected to start Chris Henry at openside flanker in place of the injured Sean O’Brien.

That frees up a loose forward slot on the bench, and Murray sees no reason why Copeland cannot fit that bill.

“I’ve had a few chats to him since he’s been in camp,” said Murray. “He’s picked up three man-of-the-match awards for Cardiff in the Heineken Cup group stages which is unbelievable.

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“And up close he’s a real athlete, a powerful player and he seems to be a natural footballer.

“It’s a good signing for Munster and he’s already having an impact here now as well.”