Murphy's lore is Irish inside track
April 22, 2008
Canada back-row Phil Murphy hopes his French connections will give London Irish a valuable edge in their Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulouse at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.
Murphy spent three seasons with Perpignan and was in their 2003 Heineken Cup final team beaten 22-17 by Toulouse in Dublin before joining the Exiles and this season helping them reach the knock-out stages for the first time.
"It is the first time we have got this far - which is something everyone has on their mind - but there are a few players with a fair bit of Heineken Cup experience," said Murphy.
"As well as myself there is former Bath player and 1998 Heineken Cup winner Mike Catt and Aidan McCullen, who has played for Leinster and then Toulouse.
"As a whole though, I think that this week we'll be tapping into my experience of playing against Toulouse with Perpignan and, of course, Aidan's experience from playing with them.
"The main aim for players like Mike and me is to push the idea that this is a massive occasion but that it's just another game and we have to ignore the occasion and concentrate on imposing our game on the opposition like any other match. You need to do that against Toulouse who will exploit everything you give away.
"Toulouse are a side with 15 great players on the pitch and another seven on the bench. Any player in that team can be a game breaker so the focus for us will be on keeping things tight and not letting them get away with anything.
"I know that if Jean-Baptiste Elissalde plays at No 10 he may be seen as a target for the back row, but don't be fooled. Despite his size, he's a fantastic tackler and a solid player.
"We will obviously be looking for areas to exploit and it may be the 9/10 channel but you can't rely on your assessment of one player to base your game plan on.
"You need several points of attack and that's why we have done so well this season, because when Plan A fails, we have a Plan B and a Plan C.
"In terms of my potential opposite number, anyone who can keep Finau Maka out of a side has to be a force to be reckoned with. I've played many, many times against Finau and it's a testament to Shaun Sowerby that he has forced his way into the Toulouse side. They certainly have a great back row, but having said that, they have strengths all over the pitch.
"And when you're playing a team of the calibre of Perpignan or Toulouse you have to box clever. In the quarter-finals against Perpignan our game plan was to keep the ball out of the hands of players like Vaki, Tonita and Tuilagi and so frustrate their game plan.
"No doubt we will have a similar approach to the Toulouse match and look for the best way to prevent them from playing their game as well as imposing our own.
"As to my memories of the game in Dublin back in 2003, they are mostly about the atmosphere - it was fantastic. I know the Irish fans were bitterly disappointed to miss out on the prospect of an all-Irish final but they were fantastic and really got behind the game.
"I also seem to remember a gale-force wind howling through the stadium but it didn't dampen the atmosphere at all and it was a great match to be part of."
HEINEKEN CUP 2008 SEMI-FINALS
SATURDAY 26 APRIL
LONDON IRISH v TOULOUSE
SUNDAY 27 APRIL
SARACENS v MUNSTER
* Delayed ** Highlights
HEINEKEN CUP 2008 FINAL
Millennium Stadium - Saturday, 24 May - Kick-off: 17.00