JAMISON GIBSON-PARK had three prime opportunities to gain more Test experience during this Six Nations but Ireland’s championship concludes as it started – with Conor Murray at scrum-half alongside captain Johnny Sexton.
31-year-old Murray returns to play after a six-week absence, a break that was mainly because of a hamstring injury but also because Andy Farrell opted not to use him off the bench last weekend in the win over Scotland.
Murray returns in the tried-and-trusted combination with Sexton for cap number 89 – with another five Lions caps to his name. You can be certain he is aiming to add to that total this summer if the series against South Africa goes ahead.
With Warren Gatland watching on – having been in Ireland camp this week to keep an eye on training – Saturday would be the ideal time for Murray to lay down a reminder of his quality.
In naming him to start, Farrell said the Munster man is a “big-game player” and Murray himself said he is excited to be back in the starting XV.
“It’s worked out in the past before,” said Murray when asked about relishing the big occasion. “It’s probably in your preparation with these big games. You know if you’re not prepared and up to scratch, you can be found out even more so in the big games.
“You enjoy playing against your opposite number or a really good side like England are at the moment, you want to put your best foot forward and show people what you can do. You don’t need any extra motivation for these games, England at home, I’m looking forward to it massively.”
Of course, Murray being recalled won’t be to every Ireland fan’s approval. He has his fair share of critics, with many perceiving him to primarily be a box-kicking scrum-half.
Murray does his best to block out that kind of talk.
“Yeah, that’s just what the outside noise is I suppose, but I’ve huge belief in what we’re doing here and the coaches are the very same, they back you to back yourself and put on a show and back your skillset,” said Murray.