Murphy: Ireland ready to hit back

British & Irish Lion Geordan Murphy insists the only way for Ireland to overcome their lack of confidence is to meet their Six Nations rivals head-on. [more]

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British & Irish Lion Geordan Murphy insists the only way for Ireland to overcome their lack of confidence is to meet their Six Nations rivals head-on.

Ireland took a fearful battering during the autumn series with rampant New Zealand running out 45-7 winners at Lansdowne Road while a week later Australia followed suit, inflicting a morale-sapping 30-14 defeat.

It was no vintage Wallaby side and November’s final opponents Romania were dispatched in predictable style, although even then Eddie O’Sullivan’s men did not look totally convincing.

Still struggling from the bitter disappointment of last year’s Six Nations failure, Ireland’s morale was further damaged by the havoc caused by the All Blacks in Dublin.

Many players – including Murphy himself – were not operating at full throttle and the Leicester full-back believes the best way to restore self belief is to step straight back into the Test arena.

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"The November series was disappointing for us," said the 27-year-old, who played in all three autumn Tests.

"We tried a few new things and we played two very good sides in New Zealand and Australia. It’s difficult to say exactly where it went wrong but I think it affected our confidence a little bit when we lost to them.

"There’s no good moaning about it, you just have to get back on the horse.

"Hopefully we’ll develop in the Six Nations. There’s no extra pressure on us because of those results but we do need to get back to winning ways.

"We didn’t deserve to beat New Zealand or Australia – they were just better teams on the day.

"We’re in a transition period but I think we’ve got as good a chance as anyone else in the competition. We’re not favourites by any means but we’re looking forward to making an impact."

O’Sullivan introduced a new game-plan during November with the emphasis on keeping the ball in hand and attacking the outside centre channel as much as possible.

It misfired at times with Ireland guilty of over-ambition when they should have been looking to kick, especially against New Zealand.

O’Sullivan is determined to persevere with the blueprint in an effort to draw the best from such gifted runners as Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy and Andrew Trimble.

But Murphy, another game-breaker who was once described as the George Best of rugby by his then Leicester boss Dean Richards, believes Ireland must keep their tactical options open.

"Eddie comes up with the gameplan – that’s why he’s paid big bucks to be the coach. It was nice to try things and it’s good to experience ways of playing the game," said Murphy.

"Obviously you can throw the ball out wide but teams will work you out. You have to mix and match to keep people guessing so it will be interesting to see what patterns we use in the Six Nations."

One of the few positives to take from the wreckage of Ireland’s autumn debacle was the emergence of some genuinely exciting talent in Trimble and Denis Leamy.

Trimble made his debut against Australia and looked at home in the Test arena, giving O’Sullivan the conundrum of how to fit the Ulster centre, D’Arcy and O’Driscoll into the same midfield, while Leamy’s international development continued with some impressive work an number eight.

But Murphy insists the competition for places runs right throughout the team and believes his Leicester team-mate and Ireland A openside Shane Jennings could soon win his first cap.

"There are some quality players coming through the ranks in Ireland and some exciting prospects playing abroad. There is competition across the board," he said.

"Shane Jennings is really pushing for a place in the national side judging by his form in the Premiership week-in week-out. Trimble has done really well and is a quality centre."

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