Ulster’s Jordi Murphy is bursting to make big comeback and cement back row place

Injuries are part of the job description but nobody tells you how discomforting it is just observing games and watching the team, and your rivals, thrive during an evening’s work.

his is currently Jordi Murphy’s lot as a troublesome foot injury is keeping him out of the picture as the province prepare for a trip to Parma and a clash with Zebre on Saturday.

Murphy could do with some better fortune right now and a chance to replicate how he mined a rich seam form last season which was probably his best since moving north from Leinster in 2018.

“My last game was in May so I’m absolutely dying to get out there,” says the 30-year-old with clear frustration seeping from every pore.

And with Duane Vermeulen’s arrival not too far over the horizon it is doubtless even more pressing for Murphy to get back onto the pitch to claim his berth in Ulster’s premier back-row combination with presumably – if all fit, including Vermeulen – the 30-times capped Ireland flanker competing with Nick Timoney and Sean Reidy for the remaining two places in the breakaway unit.

So not really the best time to be side-lined with all previous form no guarantee of anything after Ulster struck for their marquee signing.

Murphy has some work to do, which is only right and proper, and he knows it.

“Last year there was a lot of competition and it really upped our level there with back-row guys really stepping up to the plate,” he said.

“Nick Timoney had a brilliant season after not playing a lot at the start but when he did get his opportunity he grabbed it with both hands,” Murphy adds before addressing another strength Vermeulen will seemingly bring.

“Duane coming in, he can coach our back-rows to be better and if the boys can get a little out of him then I think we will be better for it.”

One area which might assist Murphy in staying ahead of the game in, the fight for selection, may well be his leadership qualities which were seen to notable effect last season when thrown the captain’s armband by Dan McFarland.

“It gave me a great deal of energy and confidence that your coach feels that you are the best person to lead the group that week,” he added.

“It was a very enjoyable experience and if I get an opportunity again I hope to grab it with both hands as well.”

There has been heavy focus in the off-season on Ulster’s game-plan and the notion that they will be better equipped to introduce on-field variations when required. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything like that, we just want to add a couple more strings to our bow and just be a bit more diverse and making sure that teams aren’t able to scout (us) a couple of weeks in advance and think ‘this is what we’ll be coming up against’.

“It’s about variety in our game. Any time during the game we should be able to have different game-plans or different styles of play so I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds now in the league.”

In terms of adding to his 30 international appearances, he hasn’t given up hope but, realistically, he knows it’s a big ask to break back in.

He contacted Andy Farrell at the start of the summer to be told that this season would be a new beginning in terms of casting the net for selection.

“So basically just get your head down and work hard,” he says.

“If I play at the best of my ability for the province then there’s not much else I can do as it’s (Ireland recognition) not in my hands.”

Yes, playing for his province. He could do with some of that right now.

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