Six Nations
Conor Murray raring to go ahead of Italy
ESPN Staff
February 4, 2015

Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray is happy to play alongside either Ian Madigan or Ian Keatley when they travel to Rome to face Italy on Saturday.

Murray is "through that first contact fear" after a month out with neck trouble, and should start against the Azzurri in Rome. He shoulders the brunt of the playmaking duties in a French-style half-back set-up at Munster, but does not expect a repeat at Test level this weekend.

Murray said he is equally happy partnering Leinster's Ian Madigan or club-mate Ian Keatley, the two fly-halves vying to start in Rome while first-choice fly-half Johnny Sexton completes his 12-week concussion lay-off.

"There's no more pressure than usual," said Murray of conducting Ireland's tempo in Sexton's absence. "Other people might say there is but I don't see that. It's come up with Munster before that there might be a bit more pressure on me but I just try and play my own game, try and play well and if I play well hopefully all that stuff, that pressure and responsibility, looks after itself.

"The two lads, the two Ians who are going for the 10 spot this weekend, have been in and out of the team in training. They have been getting their reps in and doing real well and I have no issue with whoever gets picked."

Boss Joe Schmidt will be relieved to have frontline nine Murray fit to start in Rome, with the increasingly-poised half-back crucial to Ireland's tactical nous. Murray's ability to run a game in the manner of a fly-half from the nine berth could prove priceless at the Stadio Olimpico, especially in the absence of Sexton.

Murray said he has eased comfortably back into confrontational training, claiming there is "no hassle" now over the disc problem that has blighted his last month.

"I just over-extended my neck against Zebre about a month ago," said Murray. "I maybe could have got back for the two European games, but the specialists and doctors advised against it.

"I'm feeling good and fit to play now. It was a disc problem in my neck. It's gone now. There is no hassle over it. I just ran into a player's chest and squashed myself. It wasn't the smartest idea - I won't be doing that again!

"I have done all my contact. I have done bag work, tackled a few of the lads and feel good. I've gotten through that first contact fear if you want to call it that."

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