Rugby Union: Murphy is coach of Ireland

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The Independent Online
GERRY MURPHY, formerly Ciaran Fitzgerald's assistant, last night picked up Irish rugby's poisoned chalice when he became national coach. How far he runs with it depends on a wholesale change in the fortunes of a team who forgot how to win under his predecessor.

Fitzgerald, whose Triple Crowns as Ireland captain (in 1982 and 1985) were in contrast to his fortunes as coach, gave it up as a bad job as soon as Australia had won 42-17 in Dublin last month. It then took four weeks for the Irish Rugby Union to decide on Murphy.

'I'm very flattered to be asked,' Murphy said. 'You get into the habit of losing, so my priority has to be somehow to inspire a victory of any kind. Anything will do me: even 1-0 against Scotland would be fine, if you know what I mean.'

Murphy had been appointed Fitzgerald's assistant when the Irish Rugby Union dispensed with his previous assistant, John Moloney, after last season's Five Nations whitewash and accompanied Fitzgerald on last summer's ultimately calamitous tour in New Zealand.

Aged 47, Murphy is only the second non-international - the other was Roly Meates 20 years ago - to become Ireland coach. He played full-back for Trinity College and Wanderers, coached both as well as Clontarf, and was assistant coach of Leinster province and Ireland Under-21s. He also played cricket three times for Ireland.

The legacy to Murphy is hardly handsome. In the past year Ireland have suffered record defeats by England, France, New Zealand and Australia. During Fitzgerald's tenure victory was achieved over Argentina and, in the World Cup, Zimbabwe and Japan. The only Championship point came from a draw with Wales in 1991.

Wakefield's short straw, page 30