JORDI MURPHY WILL be one of the more recognisable faces on the Leinster bench tomorrow evening as Leinster and Ulster lace up their boots in anger for the first time this season.
Unlike roughly half of the 13 men also detailed as cover, Murphy holds realistic short-term aspirations of forcing his way into Matt O’Connor’s first team.
The back row counts the early phase of last season as the most important factor in winning himself a contract extension with the province. And with Lions and internationals out of the mix for the early stages of the league, the Lansdowne man is ready to squeeze in to the next opening.
“That was my first priority, I wanted to break into the team and I managed to do that before November. I worked hard in the academy and hoped to get bumped up early. I got a few breaks with a few people injured and I took my opportunity.
“It was a good year last year and I just want to build on that. That was last year and I want to move on quickly.”
The RaboDirect Pro12 champions were on the road to Belfast early, today stopping off in Dundalk for the latest in a series of open training sessions in parts of the province historically less connected with the side. Despite the young profile of the 29-man squad, Murphy says Ravenhill will be the proving ground for those who wish to start in Llanelli come September.
“Everyone has an opportunity now and we’ve all put our hands up in the last few weeks. he next two games – Ulster tomorrow and Northampton next week – will really decide the team for the first game I think.
“You just hope to stand up, make yourself counted and stake a claim for the jersey.”
One jersey that may well be off limits is the number eight shirt. After an impressive Lions tour, Jamie Heaslip is most definitely the man in possession. However, he is also one of Murphy’s chief advocates and the man the former Blackrock schoolboy calls his ‘mentor’.
“It’s definitely great to get praise, but you’ve got to back it up.The fellas are giving me good guidance. Jamie’s one of the guys that have always been there for me, giving me a hand if I ever needed anything I could go to him – he’s a bit of a mentor.”
Murphy’s task now is to turn Heaslip into a rival.
– Interview by Pat McCarry