Conor Murray’s cameo at No.10 during Ireland’s victory over Wales could prove to be more than just a one-off, with Andy Farrell describing him as a “genuine option” at fly-half.
Injuries to Johnny Sexton and Billy Burns meant scrum-half Murray was called upon to fulfil the playmaker position with 15 minutes left to play in the Autumn Nations Cup opener.
But the 31-year-old took to his task like a duck to water, slotting two penalties to put the game beyond Wales before converting James Lowe’s late try in Dublin for a 32-9 triumph.
And Ireland head coach Farrell told media after the game that Murray is more than capable of slotting in at No.10 should the Munster star be required to start against England.
“Conor actually thinks he’s a fly-half already,” Farrell said. “He did pretty well, didn’t he? Conor has played there before for us. He is a smart rugby player.
“He understands what’s going on across the back-line, not just at fly-half or scrum-half. He steered the ship really well for us. He’s a genuine option there, definitely.”
Murray started the clash against Wales on the bench, with Jamison Gibson-Park given the starting scrum-half berth as Farrell looked to give an opportunity to the Leinster No.9.
And with Sexton ruled out of Ireland’s second Group A fixture against England at Twickenham, Murray believes his experience in the backline will work in his favour if asked to fill in at No.10.
“Being on the bench, anything can happen – injuries and bumps to the head,” he said. “I got a bit of a run out at (number) 10 for the last 15 or 20 minutes.
“Playing inside the 10s during the week and knowing the calls – not that it’s easy to slot in – but you’ve a fair idea where you’re supposed to be.
“I think the lads chatting to you out there on the pitch, looking after you. The centres and wingers, and things like that, help a lot. It was enjoyable.
“I’ve been in the team for a while now and playing at this level. Training week in, week out with the 10s outside you and having a bit of an understanding of what they’re wanting from you as a nine.
“It did make it a little bit easier slotting one position over. Now I know it’s an awful lot different, but just having a decent idea of the way we want to play as a team.”