With a new domestic campaign on the horizon, Ireland full back Geordan Murphy is hoping another impressive season in Leicester Tigers colours will push him towards his second successive Lions tour.
The 30-year-old, who made his Lions Test debut in the final match of the 2005 tour to New Zealand, insists the process of selection starts now, even if the idea is to take things one step at a time.
“I think it is always there at the back of your mind,” says Murphy, who currently has 58 international caps, two Heineken Cup winners medals, five English Premiership titles and one Anglo-Welsh Cup to his name.
“It’s like a series of stepping stones. You have to be playing well for your club in order to get selected at international level but it is something that most players will think about, especially coming into next year. All professional players will want to have a big pre-season and they’ll want to build up some good form going through to potentially get themselves involved. There’s still a little bit of time but the ball has definitely started rolling.”
With Ian McGeechan already installed as head coach and an exciting set of fixtures lined up for all four Home Nations in November, Murphy believes every potential Lion will be looking to start the new season in a rich vein of form.
“I think players start really trying to hit a bit of form in the autumn before and they try and get themselves in their national squads. Everyone knows that, if you’re not in the national team that year, you’re going to struggle to get into the Lions squad. All the international players, and even the guys who haven’t been capped yet, want to give a good account of themselves, with the hope that they might get selected.”
For Murphy, that selection arrived three years ago. Having missed out on the 2001 tour after spending most of the international season representing Ireland at A level, the leading scorer in the current Tigers squad earned selection in 2005 under former Leicester centre Sir Clive Woodward.
“It was a great honour. I knew that there were a lot of very talented players playing at the time so I was really nervous. I kind of knew I was in with a shot because I was playing reasonable rugby but you never want to count your chickens and I was over the moon when the announcement was made.”
Murphy’s first appearance in a Lions shirt arrived before the squad had even left British and Irish shores as Woodward picked him at full back for the opening match against Argentina in Cardiff and, although the tour itself ended in defeat, Murphy was more than grateful for the experience.
“It was amazing. That was a huge deal for me to play in that game against Argentina and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole tour.
“Representing the Lions gives you a different perspective. I played a lot of midweek rugby and made a lot of good mates on tour as I got a chance to get to know some guys who I’d never had the chance to hang out with before.
“When you play for your country, you know all the guys but you’re out of your comfort zone a little with the Lions. You’re hanging out with different people and guys from different countries and you have to get used to the way they play as well. It’s a huge challenge. It can take a little bit of work and it can be a difficult thing to do in this day and age as different teams have different styles of play but any team needs a bit of time to get some form.
“New Zealand was an extremely difficult place to go and play. Every game we played was incredibly tough but I loved every minute of it. I know it was a dead rubber at the end, but I was extremely pleased to get a cap as well. I aspired to play for the Lions and, thankfully, I’ve managed to do that.”