Hurley wary of Fiji’s expansive game

Munster fullback Denis Hurley has been given a chance to stake a claim for the Ireland number 15 jersey after being selected at fullback for Saturday’s meeting with Fiji and he admits the squad are mindful of the threat posed by the Islanders’ running game.

Fiji are currently rated as the top rugby sevens nation and will bring their customary pace and flare to Saturday’s match.

Hurley has just one international cap to his name, earned on a tour of the USA in 2009, and he will form part of an inexperienced backline this weekend alongside uncapped Ulster trio Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy.

28-year-old Hurley understands the importance of denying Fiji opportunities to exhibit their exploits in broken field running.

“Fiji are the kind of team that like to play ball, they’re very open-branded but they’re well able to put in big hits as well so they’re an exciting team to play against,” he said.

“I think a lot of our focus is going to be on minding out own game plan and not giving them too many options of breaking up the game and making it loose.

“It’s really about making sure they don’t get the chances of getting into that loose game, a lot of it is making sure that we get our early tackles in and get them on the ground, the more that they’re on the ground the more they’ll have to tighten up and get into rucks.

“If it does start to break up a bit we’re mindful that we have to regroup quick, not to let it get too loose, because that’s the time when they will be dangerous if you knock off for a minute or two.”

With several inexperienced backs looking to make an impression in the green jersey Hurley admits the temptation is there to try and beat Fiji at their own game but he insists they must stick to the game plan which means building phases before putting width on the play.

“I think we’re going to look at maybe going down four or five phases before those options open up.

“If we went at them at first phase and tried to get the magic play that’s the time when they would pick up on a loose ball and it could be a try under our own posts.

“It really is a matter of keeping the ball in hand and that we hold onto it as long as we can and ensure they’re being pulled into rucks and mauls and make it frustrating for them.”

Injury to Munster’s first choice fullback Felix Jones has seen Hurley enjoy plenty of game time this season as Rob Penney rotated between the Cork Constitution man and Ian Keatley at fullback.

With ERC European player of the year Rob Kearney and Connacht’s Gavin Duffy on the injury list and Jones just returning from a long enforced absence, Hurley may have been hopeful of a starting position last weekend against the Springboks but Declan Kidney opted for the risky selection of Simon Zebo at fullback.

Frustratingly for Hurley, he won’t add to his single international cap on Saturday as the Thomond park meeting is a non-cap encounter but the Munster man knows it is still a big opportunity to prove his credentials.

“It’s just one of those situations that occur, it is out of my control anyway. We still approach it in our own minds that it is a full international.

“It is important that we make sure we play well individually and collectively, if we put in a good performance that gives us an opportunity maybe of selection for next week.

“My pressure this weekend is performing within the fifteen and the squad of twenty-three, I have my own role to play.

“You look at yourself, you want to come out of the game proud that you have played well in the green shirt and that’s my main focus for this weekend.”

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