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Geordan Murphy is still the role model for Leicester’s Niall Morris

Niall MorrisNiall Morris has no doubt about his place in the full-back pecking order at Leicester: ‘Geordan Murphy is still  Number One.’

Like last season, when injuries led to a surprise call up and two tries on debut, Morris has moved seamlessly into the first team set-up ever since fellow Dubliner Murphy bruised his knee against Saracens in the middle of September.

The 24-year-old has started the last three games and will today feature in the glamour Heineken Cup tie of the weekend – Toulouse away.

So far Morris has impressed with his safe handling, bravery in contact and ability on the counter attack – all skills associated with Murphy, a veteran of more than 300 appearances for the Midlands club. Like his namesake and distant relative, Irish tenor Niall Morris, he has almost been pitch perfect.

With Murphy planning to hang up his boots at the end of the season, Morris is keen to become his full-time replacement, but, for now, he knows he is only keeping the jersey warm for the senior statesman and captain of the team.

Morris said: “Obviously Geordy is Number One and he has been for a considerable number of years; my aim is to just make selection as difficult as possible for the coaches by playing as well as I can when I get an opportunity.

“In the last few weeks I’ve managed to get a bit of game time and it’s gone alright really, but there’s still a lot for me to work on.”

Morris, who lines up on the right wing today, played in that position in the defeat to Harlequins but reverted to his preferred position of full-back in the subsequent wins over Exeter and Sale.

He added: “I’d probably regard myself as more of a full-back than an out-and-out winger, and eventually I’d like to play there regularly, but it will be very difficult while Geordy is still playing.

“He has been around for a long time and is such a classy player; it is good to watch someone so skillful and who has won so much in his career.

“He does all the simple things well and makes rugby look easy even when he is under pressure, and then there are the moments of magic he can bring.”

Another of Morris’ heroes will be wearing 15 for Toulouse today.  He revealed: “When I was younger and watching rugby on TV I always thought that Clement Poitrenaud was one of the best full-backs in the world and fun to watch. He is part of a great back three at Toulouse that can turn a game on its head.”

Failure to qualify from the pool stages for a second successive year is not an option for the Tigers, who, Morris admits, face a daunting challenge first up.

“I’m thrilled to be selected for the Toulouse game and it’ll definitely be a case of pinching myself. It’ll be an amazing opportunity to play against what is historically one of the best sides in Europe.

“This is probably the biggest game we could have been given in the first round and it’ll definitely be a test for us, but we’re all looking forward to it.

“We definitely want to give Europe a good crack this year. The first thing is to get out of our group. But if we get off to a good start it will give us momentum, which is important in a competition like the Heineken Cup.”

JON NEWCOMBE

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