Conor Murray acknowledges Ireland’s record-breaking winning run and impressive achievements under Andy Farrell will count for very little at the Rugby World Cup.
Ireland travel to France as Six Nations Grand Slam champions and having topped the world rankings for more than a year on the back of their historic tour triumph in New Zealand.
Farrell’s men made it 13 consecutive victories with Saturday evening’s 17-13 success over Samoa in Bayonne – bettering the 12-game winning streak enjoyed under Joe Schmidt across 2017 and 2018.
Defeat in the first Test against the All Blacks in July 2022 was Ireland’s last loss and just one of two suffered in their previous 27 outings.
Scrum-half Murray is preparing for his fourth World Cup and knows the tournament is a “different animal”.
“We’re in a pretty good place, given where we have been over the last two years and what we have achieved,” he said.
“We never get carried away with ourselves. We know going into every game that we have to respect the opposition.
“It (form) going into a World Cup doesn’t count for much. You have to bring your best rugby when you get to the tournament, when the competition kicks off for real.
“But we know how good the team can be. We also know how hard we have to work to get to that level and be there every week.
“The summer series was good and people got hit outs and we feel match fit now, but it’s a different animal by the time the World Cup comes around.
“We know where we can go as a group, the confidence is really high.”
Murray claimed a crucial try as Ireland stuttered past Samoa on a soggy evening in south-west France, with the vast majority of a vocal sold-out crowd supporting their opponents.
The 34-year-old believes the experience will be beneficial moving forward, with hosts France a potential quarter-final opponent, if Ireland successfully negotiate a group containing reigning world champions South Africa, Scotland, Tonga and Romania.
“Along that road we’re going to have games when things don’t go perfectly and we have to find a way,” he said.
“The World Cup could be like that and probably will be like that, it won’t go perfectly.
“There’s going to be nights like this (Samoa), the atmosphere was really hostile, in a good way, but we’re going to have to deal with that kind of thing as well.
“We know how much pressure there’s going to be, how the atmospheres are going to be.”
Ireland received a timely reminder of the dangers of South Africa after their Pool B rivals emphatically dispatched New Zealand 35-7 on Friday evening.
Murray previously worked with Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber and his assistant Felix Jones at Munster.
“We know what they’re like,” he said of South Africa.
“You could say New Zealand were poor, but I thought South Africa put them under so much pressure it made them make mistakes.
“A lot of us have been coached by Jacques and Felix, and we know what’s coming. Well, we think we know what’s coming, Jacques is always going to pull something out of nothing and something you didn’t expect.
“We’ve been watching South Africa and everyone else for a long time. I’m sure they will feel really good about where they’re at because that was a really good New Zealand side, and they made them look not so good.”