Ulster Rugby: Murphy has 'positive' talks over head coach job (2024)

Ulster interim boss Richie Murphy says he has had "positive" discussions regarding taking over permanently at Kingspan Stadium, despite speculation linking others to the job.

Ireland Under-20s head coach Murphy was installed on a temporary basis after Dan McFarland was sacked in February with Friday night's win over Benetton his third victory in six games.

The 54-year-old has long been considered the favourite to lead the side into next season, and has stated his desire to take the job on, but reports from Japan this week linked Kubota Spears coach Frans Ludeke to the vacant post.

"I don't really pay much attention to what's going on in the background," Murphy said.

"I have had conversations with Ulster and they've all been positive towards next year, so it's still at that stage."

Murphy has faced six games in six weeks since arriving after the underage Six Nations, with two of those played in South Africa and two in France.

His side have now won two games in a row with the 38-34 victory over Benetton representing a step forward in terms of performance.

In a tight United Rugby Championship (URC) play-off race, Murphy added that he has had to be more focused on results than his long-term future.

"It probably has an effect on other people more so than me," he said of the speculation.

"I'm quite happy with what I'm doing. I suppose when there's not certainty, it opens up to speculation. But speculation, I can't deal with that.

"I need to prepare the team on a Monday, a Tuesday and a Thursday to get them ready for Friday. I deal with the team and I'm worrying about how we can be good enough to win on Friday nights."

The interim head coach is not the only Murphy weighing up a future at Kingspan Stadium. His son Jack, who started all five of Ireland's 2024 Under-20s Six Nations games at fly-half, is in talks over a deal in Belfast too.

"The latest is he's been talking to Ulster, definitely," Murphy added.

"He hasn't signed any contracts or anything like that. He's looking at college options and we'll see how that progresses over the next couple of weeks."

Ulster's five-try showing against Benetton lifted them from 10th to fifth in the URC table with just three fixtures remaining. While they will wait and see where they finish the weekend after results elsewhere on Saturday, the five points against a play-off rival could prove crucial in the race to end the season in the top eight.

After a week off to allow for the European semi-finals, Ulster will resume their league campaign away to Scarlets on 11 May.

Having been without at least 10 regulars for the Benetton win, Murphy hopes to have a few players back for that trip to Wales.

"There will be one or two of those players back, it's really hard to say which ones," he added.

"They're working hard with the medical team and they're doing a great job putting the guys through their paces.

"We'd expect some back but not anywhere near the amount that we have missing."

Injuries have been a consistent theme of Murphy's short tenure with key figures like Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Nick Timoney and Kieran Treadwell presently out of action, while it has already been confirmed that Springbok Steven Kitshoff has played his last game for the province before a summer return to Stormers.

In their absence, Murphy has had to rely on a number of younger players, some of whom he previously worked with at the Ireland Under-20s.

"It's massive," said Murphy of the impact of the lengthy injury list.

"When you lose the experience that we're losing, you've got 21-year-old Scott Wilson going three or four games in a row, which shouldn't really happen, Harry Sheridan is in a similar boat at 22.

"Tight-five forwards out there and being able to do that, because that's where we're missing the bulk of those players, it puts pressure on you.

"The guys will learn from these experiences, and it will stand to them over the next number of seasons, but for Ulster Rugby we need to win right now.

"To be able to get through the last number of games with the amount of injuries that we've had has been really good.

"Getting those young lads into the team (now) builds the competition so that when the other lads come back, they're not just handed back a jersey, they all have to work really hard to get into the team for the next game. That's the big thing."

Ulster Rugby: Murphy has 'positive' talks over head coach job (2024)
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