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Richie Murphy leaves fine Under-20 legacy as he departs for Ulster interim post

The Offload: Popular Scottish doctor calls time after 33 years; Nash takes opportunity in his stride

Richie Murphy had an early Monday morning start for his first day as interim head coach with Ulster. And he’ll barely have time to find his bearings in Belfast before jumping on a plane to South Africa where the Irish province will play a brace of URC matches against the Sharks and Stormers.

No decision has been agreed on whether Murphy will lead the Ireland Under-20 to the Junior World Championship in Cape Town during the summer but whatever that outcome, he has done a remarkable job with the age-grade side, winning back-to-back Grand Slams and in his final three Six Nations campaigns, Ireland were unbeaten, pipped to this year’s title by England, with whom they drew with in Bath.

Murphy’s record with Ireland Under-20s

2021 Six Nations (played in the summer, all matches took place at the Arms Park in Cardiff): Ireland 38 Scotland 7; Ireland 40 Wales 12; Ireland 15 England 24; Ireland 30 Italy 23; Ireland 28 France 34.

2022 Six Nations: Ireland 53 Wales 5; France 16 Ireland 17; Ireland 39 Italy 12; England 27 Ireland 42; Ireland 59 Scotland 5.

2023 Six Nations: Wales 27 Ireland 44; Ireland 33 France 31; Italy 27 Ireland 44; Scotland 7 Ireland 82; Ireland 36 England 24

2023 World Junior Championship (Cape Town) Pool stage: Ireland 34 England 34; Ireland 30 Australia 10; Ireland 47 Fiji 27. Semi-final: Ireland 31 South Africa 12. Final: Ireland 14 France 50

2024 Six Nations: France 31 Ireland 37; Ireland 23 Italy 22; Ireland 43 Wales 8; England 32 Ireland 32; Ireland 36 Scotland 0.

Popular Scotland and Lions doctor calls time after 33 years

Dr James Robson signed off on his time working with the Scotland rugby team at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening, having started with the national set-up as a physiotherapist, 33 years ago in 1991.

Since then, he has accompanied Scotland to eight World Cups and was the team doctor on six Lions Tours. A hugely personable and popular figure, he was even known to treat the odd ailing journalist during the course of his duties.

His prowess was never more graphically illustrated than tending to Will Greenwood, the England centre knocked unconscious during a game against the Cheetahs on the 1997 Lions tour.

Robson said: “In the medical room we were waiting for Will to come around, protecting his airways while outside the room you could hear his parents and it still gives me shivers. You cannot help thinking ‘what if?’

“When you get injured like that you lose the ability to protect your airways so they have to be put into the recovery position. Thoughts go through your head ‘do I have to put a blade through his throat?’ At that point he came around.”

He was a leading advocate of the national guidance ‘If in doubt, sit them out’ launched in 2014, and also helped develop the sport’s first Brain Health Clinic, in conjunction with the Brain Health Trust, based at Murrayfield which invites former international players to have a brain health check.

Robson said of his time: “Rugby is a fantastic sport and has given me a huge amount, which I hope I have been able to repay over the years. It is vital we continue to look after everyone who plays our great game, at every level, and I know there are many people across the rugby world working hard to ensure they do.

Nifty Nash takes Ireland opportunity in his stride

A word for Calvin Nash who acquitted himself superbly in the Six Nations championship. Injuries to Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien gave the Munster wing an opportunity and he took it. He has endured his fair share of time on the treatment table over the years but put that behind him.

Andy Farrell’s prescience in bringing Nash on the Emerging Ireland tour to South Africa in 2022 has benefited both the player and the national team head coach, whose faith has been repaid. The exposure on that tour and the manner in which he kicked on when allowed at Munster has allowed him to deliver on his talent.

His try in the Vélodrome in Marseille on his Six Nations debut in Ireland’s victory over France might be one of the easier ones that the 26-year-old will score in his career, but the fact that he added to that total in the next match against Italy underlined a happy knack of finding the try line. If there was any doubt on his capacity to step up to the highest echelon of Test rugby he quickly dispelled that notion with accomplished performances.

Quote

“The team never let up or gave up, and they eked out a victory, that is beautiful. All this is going extremely fast, they are only men after all, all of this is fragile, and all that we think is solid can come tumbling to the ground, because we are human beings, not machines.” – French coach Fabien Galthie goes all Jean-Paul Sartre post-match in Lyon.

Number: 50

Tadhg Beirne won’t have any difficulty in the future recalling his half century of appearances for Ireland given that the win over Scotland secured a second successive Six Nations championship title.

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