More Irish players should consider following in Jordi Murphy's footsteps 2 years ago

More Irish players should consider following in Jordi Murphy's footsteps

Self-awareness is probably the most overlooked quality in professional sport.

The ability to recognise and understand your place in an environment and envision where you see yourself in one, three and five years time, may ultimately be the difference between a career of self-fulfilment and a career of self-regret.

Jordi Murphy still has a lot of time on his side to dictate which side of that particular fence he will ultimately fall on, but his reported switch from the blue of Leinster to the white of Ulster next season may result in more appearances in the green of Ireland.

It's not a perfect formulaic mix, but neither is Murphy's current situation at Leinster.

Surrounded by Irish internationals in Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Jack Conan, Dan Leavy and Rhys Ruddock, finding meaningful gametime for the versatile backrower is a weekly and often uphill battle.

Murphy has played 532 minutes so far this season for Leinster across nine games, second only to Jack Conan out of the aforementiond group.

The problem for Murphy isn't gametime per se, but rather the caliber of opposition he plays against in his time on the pitch.

This season the Lansdowne flanker has played 68 minutes against the Toyota Cheetahs, 75 minutes against Edinburgh, 80 minutes against Ulster, 80 minutes against the Dragons and 80 minutes against Bennetton Treviso.

Against Munster and Montpellier Herault, Leinster's two biggest games of the season thus far, he played a combined 34 minutes.

Even with Heaslip and O'Brien both injured, the trio of Ruddock, van Der Flier and Conan were still preferred to Murphy for both games.

With all due respect, Sean Reidy, Clive Ross and Robbie Diack will not provide the same level of competition at Ulster. If Murphy thought they would, he would not be swapping Belfield for Belfast.

History

Niall Ronan made a similar switch a decade ago when he left Leinster for Munster where he went on to win the Magners League and where he was capped by Ireland.

Murphy is one of the most high profile players to make the internal switch, and while recent history has been unkind to players leaving the three-time European champions - Ian Madigan, Marty Moore, Cian Kelleher - the change of scenery has been more favourable to players such as the Scarlets Tadhg Beirne and Munster's Andrew Conway.

At 26 years of age, and with 18 caps to his name, the next two seasons for Murphy are about working his way into Joe Schmidt's 2019 Rugby World Cup squad.

Two seasons ago he played every game of the 2015 Six Nations. Last season he started twice in the summer series against South Africa and at openside flanker in the maiden win over New Zealand.

Competing for a spot in an Irish matchday squad of Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip may be a stretch too far for a player of Murphy's quality, but there is a future in Irish Rugby where Peter O'Mahony could be playing abroad, Jamie Heaslip could be facing retirement and where Sean O'Brien could be injured, it may be an alternative universe to the one we live in now, but it's an entirely realistic world where there are spots there to be filled for a player of Murphy's caliber and ability.

Schmidt has trusted and started Murphy in big games, but it will be hard for the flanker to keep himself in the New Zealander's plans if he continues to sit behind the likes of Ruddock, van der Flier, Conan, O'Brien and Heaslip at Leinster.

It's hard to leave the province you've developed and grown with but it's arguably harder to sit there and ponder upon under-utilised talent. There's a number of players within Irish Rugby that could benefit from a move elsewhere but how many are willing to take the risk?

A switch of province has failed for some but worked wonders for others.

Jerry Flannery, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Conway, Ian Keatley, Niall Ronan, Sean Cronin and John Cooney have all benefitted massively from moving from one province to another.

Marty Moore and Jordi Murphy could join that list of successes should they live up to expectations next season, and while it's a divergence from their original career path, there's a big enough sample size to show that it's a move worth making.