ANDY FARRELL says Conor Murray will be available to face France. The head coach allayed doubts over his scrum-half after naming him in the starting XV for Saturday’s crunch Six Nations fixture and said he welcomed the disruption of losing Dan Sheehan to a hamstring injury.
The hooker joins Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy on the injury list. The game sees the world’s number two team come to town to take on the number one, a battle that many see as the defining game of this year’s tournament.
“He’s good to go,” he said of Murray.
“In good spirits. For personal reasons I’d like to keep that as it is.
“The team is pretty similar, which is a good thing, it means we’re healthy enough.
“A bit of continuity in being together for 12 days before the first game and then a few sore bodies after the game, like always with the first game up in the Six Nations, but that bit of continuity gives us a nice balance to it to go forward this week.
“It’s not nice for Dan (to miss out with a hamstring injury).
“He’s a fantastic player at the top of his form. So anyone would miss a player in that type of form.
“But at the same time, I sound like a broken record but it’s great in the sense that this is exactly what’s going to happen down the track in the World Cup. Internationally rugby is only going to get bigger and better, so therefore it’s always going to be about the squad.
“When you get to the World Cup, you’ve a smaller squad. There’s a 12-day turnaround there as far as concussion is concerned, HIAs etc, so you’re always going to be numbers down and you’ve got to be able to roll with the punches as far as that’s concerned.”
And Farrell wants the home crowd to play its part by making things as hostile as possible.
“Well they’re definitely going to be up for it aren’t they?” he said.
“Everyone is looking forward to this. I mean, we’ve had half a day off today, I’ve been walking around Sandymount there and everyone is pumped.
“You know, I wish I was going to the game, and walking down to the game with my mates or my family or kids, because this is the type of game that everyone wants to be part of.
“Home advantage has to be a weapon for us. We’ve all got a responsibility for that.”
Farrell has yet to win against France during his tenure, coming out the wrong side of the result on the three previous times the teams have met in the Six Nations.
“They’re a fantastic team,” he said.
“I was actually speaking to Fabien Galthié at the launch and I congratulated him because it wasn’t just an unbelievable year for him was it, they couldn’t have done any better? Going unbeaten and playing the way that they played. I think it speaks volumes for where they’re at at this moment in time.
“I think their coaching staff, the backroom staff, the players alike have got something really going.
“French rugby in general is buzzing at this moment in time. I think we’ve all seen that.
“But, what’s very impressive about them is the temperament.
“They’ve got a plan A, B, C and D as well.
“Even when things have not been going their way, they’ve always found a way to win; certainly over the last 12 months.
“In that regard, any type of victory against a side like that is going to be a big performance.”
Farrell was asked if his team has improved since running the eventual Grand Slammers close in last year’s tournament.
“We’ll see,” he said. “We certainly think we have.
“We nearly got there in Paris last year but nearly is not quite good enough, so therefore lessons learned.
“I think they’re well documented as far as being ourselves and taking our game to them. Transferring that to the field is obviously the aim but the French are going to have a big say in that as well.”