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Geordan Murphy’s nerves not calmed by title haul

Geordan MurphyGeordan Murphy admits he is “scared” by the prospect of coaching Leicester.

Despite making more than 300 appearances for the Tigers in a 16-year professional career in which he lifted 12 major trophies, including eight Premierships, the 72-times capped Irishman is nervous about crossing the divide.

One of the most gifted performers of his generation, Murphy called time on a glorious playing career by lifting the Premiership trophy at Twickenham last month and will take up the reins as assistant to director of rugby Richard Cockerill in July.

But while delighted at having the chance to coach the team he loves, Murphy, 35, told The Rugby Paper: “It’s an early opportunity in coaching and a little bit daunting. I’m excited by it, but it’s also a little bit scary.

“But I’ll be working with guys I played with for a good few years and it’s a huge opportunity at a club like Leicester. I’ve spent 16 years here and they’ve been very loyal in keeping me involved, so, hopefully, I can impart some knowledge.

“I’ve been doing my coaching courses quietly over the years – I’ve done levels one and two and am sorting out three at the moment – and while it’s not a pre-requisite of coaching in the Premiership, it’s something I’ve been keen to do.

“I had my head around retirement for a while and although I contemplated a part-time playing role next season, like Mike Tindall at Gloucester, the body’s had enough and I’m having to have foot and knee ops.”

Murphy’s sumptuous skill-set makes him a natural to move into coaching and it will be fascinating to see the impact he has.

And the former Lion believes Tigers can build on their astonishing record of contesting nine successive Premiership finals.

“It can continue, there’s no reason why not,” Murphy said. “People would say nine finals in a row is a difficult thing to do, but we aim to be in the top four every season and look to hit our straps at the end of every campaign.

“But getting to finals isn’t enough, we want to win them and that’s very important to a club like Leicester.”

Not so positive, however, is Murphy’s outlook for English clubs in Europe, where he concedes Premiership clubs are disadvantaged.

Leicester must negotiate a pool containing Ulster, Montpellier and Treviso next season and Murphy warned: “The Heineken Cup is getting harder and harder.

“You’re in an uphill battle against French sides with £20m-plus budgets and Irish sides who have no salary cap and huge spending power. It’s difficult to compete with the blank cheque books but it’s something we try and always do.

“This season Leicester were unlucky. We had a very difficult group with two top runners in Toulouse and Ospreys, but we got through that and then pushed Toulon very close.

“Our salary cap means you probably don’t have the depth across the positions you need when you’re pushing in the league and competing in Europe as well.

“This season we’ve lost eight or ten players, some of whom you’d like to keep but can’t because of the cap.”

Murphy may be apprehensive about the cut-throat world of coaching, but he can have no qualms over his playing career. The highlights?

“Winning European Cup finals back-to-back in 2001 and 2002,” said Murphy. “The first against Stade Francais, 34-30, was a dream to be involved in and, being Irish, scoring against Munster in the second was really big.

“Winning away to Munster in 2007 was huge, too, because no one had done it.

“If you’d offered me a 15th of what I’ve achieved when I set out in grass roots back in the mid-Nineties, I’d have taken it.”

NEALE HARVEY

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