BIG INTERVIEW: Conor Murray tells JOE about Eric Cantona, a secret Christy Moore gig and the World Cup 5 years ago

BIG INTERVIEW: Conor Murray tells JOE about Eric Cantona, a secret Christy Moore gig and the World Cup

We talk to one of Ireland's key men at the World Cup.

The Rugby World Cup gets underway next Friday when England face Fiji but more importantly Ireland's tournament gets underway on Saturday against Canada.

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The build-up for Joe Schmidt's men has been OK with two wins and two defeats in the warm up games but the real business starts soon and anticipation is high in the camp and in the country.

Ahead of the big kick-off, we had a chance to chat to Ireland scrum half Conor Murray. We asked him a whole range of questions about life on and off the pitch.

Conor Murray 29/8/2015

JOE: Conor, just a quick look back at the squad announcement. Ian Madigan is the backup 9 behind yourself and Eoin Reddan, is it fair to say he's more of a Peter Stringer than a Mike Phillips?

Conor: [Laughs] Ah I don't know, he thinks he can be all types of scrum half because Mads is a confident guy. I've played with him for a long time now and he's obviously a very skillful and talented player.

If it comes to a situation where he steps in I think he's more than capable of doing a good job. He's been practicing a few things in training like box kicks or passing from the base and he looks comfortable.

JOE: Tadhg Furlong was one of the surprise inclusions and after the squad announcement we were sent a video of Tadhg playing gaelic football and clearing lads out of it, when's the last time you played GAA?

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Conor: I'm from Patrickswell which is a strong GAA town, especially for hurling, so I played that and a little bit of football since I was a young fella up until about 17.

It was around then I played my last ever game, it was a semi final but I used to spend my summers in Derrynane in Kerry so I missed the final. That's probably still held against me to this day [Laughs].

I think they won the game and I'm sure me not playing was a factor. So yeah, there might be a few clips of me around the place trying to rise the ball and failing, I wasn't most talented hurler if I'm honest.

Conor Murray 3/9/2015

JOE: What about the guys who didn't make the Irish World Cup squad. We know your friends with some of them, was that a tough moment?

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Conor: There's not manual on how to approach those things. If it happened me I probably wouldn't want to talk to that many people about it but all you can do is let them know you're thinking of them.

You say "hard luck" but "keep the head up" because injuries are part and parcel of rugby so they might be called upon with a minutes notice and have to fly out and be ready to go.

They were obviously crushed when they got the call but these guys are mentally strong so they'll go back and play with their province and be ready if the situation arises.

You look at Stephen Donald for New Zealand four years ago, he was fourth choice out half and he ended up kicking the winning penalty in the World Cup Final. It just shows how quickly things can change.

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JOE: What person, dead or alive, would you like to go for a pint with?

Conor: Pablo Escobar. I'm watching the Netflix show Narcos at the moment and I'm hooked on it. What he did was obviously horrible, but he was a really interesting character.

JOE: The tournament is on in England and Wales which is so close to home, does that make a difference because six weeks in New Zealand last time must have bonded the group an awful lot?

Conor: It's certainly going to be different but it'll be nice to have family so close so all of them can come to the games.

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The bond within the squad is so good anyway so I don't think it'll be a factor, we're all very good friends because this group has been together now for two years at least.

The squad is a lot further down the line than it was when we were heading into the tournament four years ago.

Conor Murray 5/9/2015

JOE: Talk to us about the preparation, you've had the warm-up games which we've all seen on TV but what's the training like, it must be intense?

Conor: Yeah it is, our strength and conditioning coach Jason Cowman has a lot of chats with Joe (Schmidt) about what we need to get out of different sessions.

Jason fully understands the way we play the game which is crucial for our conditioning during the summer. He'll design fitness sessions that are suited to the way we play and make us go to maximum effort that we've got to in a game or even beyond it.

We're just trying to replicate game scenarios. Like I said, the squad has been together for a while now so we understand our fitness levels and how fit we need to be to play our best.

We've worked really hard in camp but the management have also given us plenty of rest so we're all feeling very fresh.

JOE: Would you rather fight a shark on land or a gorilla under water?

Conor: Shark on land. They wouldn't be able to turn as quickly would they? But can the gorilla stand under water or is it swimming? JOE: Swimming. Conor: Nah, shark on land definitely.

JOE: Who would play you in your biopic?

Conor: I'm going to give two - my buddy Ian Cross who apparently looks like me or else the guy who plays Daniel (Josh Bowman) in the TV show Revenge. I've been sent a few tweets about him in the last while saying I'm the head off him.

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JOE: The best/worst chat-up line you've ever used/heard?

Conor: OK, just to be clear, I have never used this but my friend has on a few occasions. He'll go up to a girl, say hello, and start rubbing the sleeve of his shirt for a few seconds.

Then he'll ask her, "do you know what sort of material that is?" The girl usually says "No I don't" and then he'll swoop in with "boyfriend material." It's so bad, it's horrific. And just to be clear again, I have never used that.

JOE: What's the best gig you've been to recently?

Conor: Christy Moore actually played for us at Carton House a few weeks ago. It was class, a few of the lads got up and sang with him. JOE: Did you sing? Conor: No, I didn't. I would have ruined the entire night for everyone if I did.

JOE: During every World Cup, there are jobs given to players in the squad like organising entertainment, organising punishments, giving history lessons etc. Have they been given out yet?

Conor: There will be jobs for everyone. There will be duty boys appointed to help Rala with the bags, to make sure the tackle pads are taken to the bus, cleaning the dressing room and Mike Ross is looking after setting up movies in the team room.

Someone will do tourist information which will be easy considering it's London to Cardiff and back to London, but it was great in New Zealand because we went to a new town every week.

For every new town, there was a new tourist information person appointed and they had to go to the top of the bus and give a bit of spiel about that town.

If your information wasn't good enough, you'd get kicked off the bus wherever we were and you'd have to find your own way back to the team hotel.

JOE: The big question - how upset are Tommy Bowe and Sean O'Brien that they won't be able to go the the beach and take their tops off in front of the cameras?

Conor: Very, and I'd Dave Kearney and a few more will be joining them in that boat of disappointment. There are a few lads who love to take a dip when they know the cameras are around alright.

Although I'm sure they'll be able to find some outdoor water feature wherever we are and tip off the media to get that exposure [Laughs].

Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Croft, Sean O'Brien, Jonathan Davies, Paul O'Connell and Tommy Bowe 3/6/2013

JOE: The World Cup is obviously going to be your focus for the next six/seven/eight weeks but outside of the preparation, training and matches, will you watch all of the other big games or will you avoid it?

Conor: You couldn't get away from rugby at the last World Cup in New Zealand because they love it so much down there that it was on pretty much every TV channel.

This time around, I'll watch our opposition play and I'll watch the review of the day shows at night but at the same time I like to switch off from it. That's why it's handy that it's so close to home because I've plenty of friends in London to meet and my family will be over so I'll hang out with them.

I like to work hard during the week with preparation and video work, put everything into the games at the weekend and then enjoy the time off.

JOE: Apart from Munster and Limerick, what sport team do you support?

Conor: I'm a long suffering Leeds United fan. I ended up supporting them because my dad's friend is a photographer with a newspaper in Yorkshire and he used to bring us to games.

There's a great story actually, my dad's friend brought him over years ago and it turned out to be the day Eric Cantona signed for Leeds, my dad was in the office watching him sign the contract. It's mad.

I had a big Leeds fan moment last year, I was getting a scan in this place and when I was in the car park a big Range Rover pulled up beside me.

A guy leaned out the window and said to me, "how are you doing mate?" When I turned around it was Ian Harte.

He was one of my heroes growing up and he was dead on, we chatted about the Six Nations and stuff. It was very cool to meet him.

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