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'Contentious' scrum-half selection in Murphy's Ireland dream team

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Former Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy, the ex-Leicester director of rugby, popped his head back above the parapet in November when he helped to coach the Barbarians team that took on Northampton in a Franklin’s Gardens exhibition match. It was his first matchday involvement since exiting the Tigers with immediate effect 24 months previously.

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Since that departure in the early part of new England coach Steve Borthwick’s transformation of Leicester, Murphy has worked in consultancy, his array of businesses including involvement as a director at Rugby Coach Management Ltd, the company that was founded by Jan McGinity, the head of elite high-performance recruitment at the Tigers from June 2019 to February 2021.

Murphy also penned an article in a recent Ireland Test match programme, the 72-cap Irish international naming his dream team which not only included players from his own Test-playing career which lasted until 2011 but also some childhood heroes and current players.

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Being Barbarians – Rugby Documentary
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Being Barbarians – Rugby Documentary

The exercise caused the 44-year-old a number of headaches, particularly at No9 where Murphy eventually ignored the credentials of Peter Stringer, his 2009 Ireland Grand Slam-winning colleague. He instead chose Eoin Reddan as his starting nine and named the little-known Ciaran Scally as the bench backup.

Capped four times by Warren Gatland in the 1998/99 season by Warren Gatland, a knee injury soon put a sudden stop to the fledging career of the then 20-year-old Scally and these days he keeps himself involved in the game as a citing officer. For instance, he was the official whose recent citing resulted in a one-game ban for Saracens’ Alex Lozowski after their European win at Lyon in December.

Anyway, back to the Murphy dream team and his reasons for his scrum-half selection. “At No9, I’m going to be contentious because everyone will expect me to pick Peter Stringer but I thought Eoin Reddan was a machine in that slot. I loved the way he played the game as well. I played with Conor Murray as well and he is unbelievable, but I watched Ciaran Scally play through school and he could have been that nine before it became a thing. He was a big robust, quality player. Amazing pass. Who knows? He was a big loss.”

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Murphy, who spent his entire professional playing career at Leicester, included a large chunk of the 2009 Ireland Grand Slam side in his dream team, but Simon Geoghegan and current RFU performance director Conor O’Shea were among the exceptions in his starting XV while Keith Wood and the late Anthony Foley were named on his bench.

“When I first got into the Ireland training squad in 1998, the way Conor treated me was unbelievable. Just an out-and-out gentleman. I remember him coming up to my parents, introducing himself and saying kindly that he had been watching me.”

Geordan Murphy Dream Team: 15. Conor O’Shea; 14. Tommy Bowe, 13. Brian O’Driscoll, 12. Gordon D’Arcy, 11. Simon Geoghegan; 10. Ronan O’Gara, 9. Eoin Reddan; 1. Marcus Horan, 2. Rory Best, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Donncha O’Callaghan, 5. Paul O’Connell, 6, Peter O’Mahony, 7. David Wallace, 8. Jamie Heaslip. Reps: 16. Keith Wood, 17. Cian Healy, 18. John Hayes, 19, Malcolm O’Kelly, 20. Anthony Foley, 21. Ciaran Scally, 22. Johnny Sexton, 23. Keith Earls.

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