Gatland sees Murray as ‘a real threat’

Date published: March 11 2015

Wales head coach Warren Gatland singled out Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray for praise ahead of Saturday's big game.

Gatland coached Murray on the successful 2013 Lions tour in Australia, with Gatland admitting he was close to a starting spot.

Murray has been the outstanding scrum-half in the competition so far, making more passes and kicks than any other player, with Gatland recognising the improvements in his game and aware of the threat posed by his combination with Jonathan Sexton.

"Conor Murray, since the Lions tour, has come on leaps and bounds. He is a quality number, a real threat," said Gatland.

"If I look back on the Lions tour, he was probably one of the most improved players on it and if there had been a fourth Test he would have been pushing for a start. The combination with Murray and Sexton is outstanding.

"They both feed off each other in terms of what they bring to the game and it is an exceptional half-back combination, a huge challenge to Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar, two half-backs we feel have improved and I hope will rise to the challenge placed on them.

"The early part of the week is concentrating on us and making sure we get things right in our own team, and later in the week we will start to focus hard on Ireland.

"At the moment, we have not really spoken too much about them at all. It is about getting our own game right and then start concentrating on Ireland, talking about individuals and the team and what we are expecting from them."

Of the game itself Gatland described Saturday's encounter by comparing it to "playing against your brother in the backyard" in a reference to the familiarity between the two sets of players.

"The players know each other so well and there is obviously a lot of rivalry.

"The Irish provinces have had a huge amount of success over the years. Some of our players have been used to being regularly dominated by the Irish provinces, so in terms of an international the motivation is there in wanting to beat the national team.

"It has been pretty even over the years and there are definitely no hard feelings or bad blood between the two teams, just a very strong rivalry when you know each other so well and play each other so often.

"It is like playing against your brother in the backyard. You want to beat him as often as you possibly can and Saturday will be no different."