The Rugby Blog’s expert on all things Irish, Conor Buckley, caught up with Geordan Murphy and Stephen Ferris at the Guinness Area 22 supporters night in Belfast ahead of Saturday’s game. Read on to hear their thoughts on their respective Euopean Cup quarter-finals, and of course, the small matter of Ireland v England on Saturday.
Conor Buckley: Geordan, how is your foot injury coming along?
Geordan Murphy: It’s coming on very well, saw a specialist the other day and he’s very happy with the way things are going. I’m still on crutches, I still have some plates and screws that have to be taken out in the first week of April, hopefully be back on my feet and train fully after that.
CB: The Tigers are riding high on top of the Premiership, a huge European Cup Quarter Final in Dublin against Leinster coming up, how do you think that game will go?
GM: I think it’s going to be very difficult obviously, always a very difficult place to come and play. Leinster gave us a good beating the last time we were over. They are a very good side, providing most of the Irish team so it is gonna be really difficult for us. We have a couple of games in the Premiership to play before then and if we can come over with almost a full-strength team, we can give Leinster a good game.
CB: There has been a lot of criticism levelled at the Irish coaching setup and players over the past year. Do you see their change of game plan to a more running rugby game as being a positive coming into the World Cup?
GM: Yeah I think it was the way it was going to go, most teams are trying to hold onto the ball as much as possible, obviously there is still a place for a kicking game but most teams are trying to play more of an expansive game, hold onto the ball and create scores. I think Ireland have been forced to change.”
CB: You’ve had a difficult history with the World Cup, missing the 2003 competition due to a broken leg in a warm up game against Scotland and then getting minimal game time in 2007. Presumably you have a huge desire to get to New Zealand in September?
GM: That’s really my goal. It’s been difficult being injured, but I’m hoping to be able to get fit in time to challenge for a place. You have to appreciate that Ireland have a lot of talent at the back, and a lot of very very talented fullbacks so it’s going to be very difficult for me to secure a place in the squad, but that was my goal and that’s what I’m going to work towards over the next few months.”
CB: There has been a rumour circulating that there has been a chicken dish named after you in a restaurant in Leicester?
GM: Haha, well that’s actually mine and Castro’s (Castrogiovanni’s) place, we opened it together, so yeah there is a dish in there that has my name on it alright!”
CB: And Stephen, your European Cup quarter-final is on the 10th April against Northampton Saints in Franklin’s Gardens. Do you hope to be back in time, any update on the injury?
Stephen Ferris: Well I have started back running last Monday, fingers crossed I get a couple of good fitness sessions in over the next few weeks and try and get back onto the pitch, that’s the target for the minute.
CB: Have you been keeping an eye on Northampton’s recent form? Since January they have only won one Premiership game out of seven. What do you think of this slump in form?
SF: Yeah, they have, but they are a pretty good team with a lot of internationals to return into their squads, they’ll get a couple of wins before we play them I’m sure of it. It’s gonna be a tough game but we’re definitely up for it, it’s been all the talk around Ulster for the last 6 weeks or so, we’ll go over there and try and put a bit of pressure on them.
CB: Ulster this season have been strengthened by the signings of Springboks (Muller, Wannenburg, Pienaar along with Botha). How have they settled into Ulster lifestyle?
SF: Brilliant, they are really loving it Ruan and Johann Muller are having an awesome time at the minute, really settled in and enjoying their rugby, All playing well and they are a good inspiration for the rest of the lads as well.
CB: Turning to Ireland, I have to ask your opinion on the line-out incident in Wales last weekend. The players must have been gutted to have such a poor refereeing decision go against them?
SF: Every supporter and fan is feeling slightly robbed, small decisions like that in test matches are the difference between winning and losing, and unfortunately we lost. I think if something like this was to happen at a World Cup, it would be a laughing stock. It is something that’s really hard to take for the lads, but I’m sure if we get a win this weekend, it’ll be quickly forgotten about!
CB: This weekend’s game against England is sure to be an intense battle, and the lads will not need any extra incentive to get fired up. What have you thought of England’s performance so far in the 6N?
SF: That’s it, I’ve been asked a few questions tonight, ‘Will the boys be fired up? After last week being defeated, there is nothing to play for?’ I say there is a lot to be played for, there’s a lot of pride at stake. You don’t want England beating you on your own home patch. England are a good side to play against and an even better side to beat. It’s gonna be a big game for us.
CB: What do you think about Will Greenwood claiming that England go into this game as Underdogs?
SF: He’s probably right, from my perspective, it’s gonna be a very tight game but I think that Ireland will come out on top.
Check out the Guinness Rugby Ireland Facebook page for details of future Area 22 events, for photographs from the evening and to find out ways of playing your part with Guinness and this is rugby country. For more information log on to: www.guinness.com/rugby and visit www.Facebook.com/GuinnessRugbyIreland