Conor Murray – “Packed stadiums with a lot on the line I think that’s when we thrive”.

Conor Murray returns to provincial action this weekend following a successful November with the national team.

The accomplished scrum half is looking forward to returning to Thomond Park on Saturday for Munster’s European clash with Leicester Tigers.

We got a week off last week, it was a tough November, but it went pretty well for us to sign off on that on a good note is great and then coming back here from the outside the buzz is really strong, the lads are obviously winning and playing really well so it’s a nice thing to be able to com back into an environment like this looking at a really big this weekend in Thomond Park.”

Murray had a busy summer, as he travelled to New Zealand with the Lions but he says that he feels in top shape as Munster enter into a pivotal stage of their season.

“I thought November was pretty solid. I think it was a challenge coming home from the summer and maintaining your form, and I think it’s just staying injury free and staying fit and healthy and getting an opportunity to play as much rugby as you possibly can and that will hopefully lead to good performances. At the moment my body feels great and really enjoying my rugby.

Leicester are leading Pool 4 on points difference with Munster in second coming into this weekend’s action. Murray is no stranger to the Premiership side and is looking forward to meeting them twice in as many weeks, starting on Saturday.

 I know them quite well. Obviously there’s battles all over the park that lads are going to take pretty personally. Last year was a record win at home which was fantastic. And then we went away and lost the following week we kind of took our eye off the ball a bit.

Leicester this year, especially with George Ford back, Jonny May who’s going really well and Veainu who’s a real threat are definitely a better team than they were last year and they were a good side last year, we just happened to click at home against them in Thomond and got a really good win and the week after they were hurting and came back. It will be a really intense two weeks. We’re obviously focusing on this game first. This is a massive point in our season and it kind of dictates where we go from here.

They’ve got a massive history, very similar to Munster in terms of their fans and their support and the way they play. We’re coming up against a team that are really similar to us, have very similar ambitions and these games around Christmas time. The back to back European games are the games I love and the lads love playing, packed stadiums and with a lot on the line and I think that’s when we thrive.”

Murray says that the back to back European games can feel like a separate competition, where the fine margins can determine the outcome.

“It’s like a mini competition. You find out a lot about each other in the two games and obviously having played them in two of the last three seasons and about to go again there’ll be a lot of mind games, there’ll be a lot of analysis, Felix and Johan and Jerry are working really hard and trying to figure out a few things that will work for us because they’ve improved their game, we’ve certainly improved our game and the margins are going to be tighter, especially in these high standard games in Europe”

The Patrickswell man will renew acquaintances with fellow scrum half Ben Youngs this weekend, a player who the Munster man highly regards. He believes that coming up against top Internationals can only help to improve his own game.

“I like playing against Ben, I know him quite well and he’s a great fella. I think we’ve got massive respect for each other. Obviously, it was a genuine pity he couldn’t travel in the summer for family reasons and these things happen but during the Six Nations and the November just gone, he’s been playing. It brings the best out of each player, coming up against players that you meet on the International stage you want to rate yourself against them and see how well you go. I’m sure it’s the same for him, I’m sure it’s the same for Keats against George Ford and these kinds of battles and it’s only going to add to the excitement of the game”

The week leading up to the game was Murray’s first time working under new head coach Johann van Graan following a week off on his return from International duty.

“He certainly has his own ideas and he’s going o filter them in as he see’s fit. I had a good chat with him after the South Africa game in the Aviva and he was really cognizant of what we have going on here is really good and what we’re doing is working for us and he’s going to continue that and build in a few of his ideas and he’s already started that in meetings.”