Six Nations: Ireland coach Richie Murphy calls for 'complete' performance in Italy

Richie Murphy
Murphy welcomed the return of Ulster's Iain Henderson to the Ireland squad
Six Nations: Italy v Ireland
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Sunday, 24 February Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and BBC Radio Ulster plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

Ireland coach Richie Murphy believes Sunday's Six Nations trip to Italy is an opportunity for the side to "take a big step forward".

Joe Schmidt's holders lost to England and beat Scotland in the opening two games of their defence of the trophy.

Kicking coach Murphy said the Murrayfield win was an improvement on the loss in Dublin, but the coaching staff are looking for more.

"We haven't had a complete performance yet," Murphy said.

"From our point of view, that is what we are striving for. We feel that we are going in the right direction and have improved in parts but we need to step up a few gears.

"Over the course of the Six Nations your performances do tend to get better and we want to take a big step in the right direction this week."

Joe Schmidt
Schmidt's Ireland side suffered a 32-20 home defeat by England in their first match

'We respect the Six Nations'

With Ireland strong contenders for the World Cup later this year, and suggestions that Schmidt might experiment with his line-up against Italy, Murphy stressed the importance of the Six Nations to the Irish squad.

"At the very start we were here for one thing and that was to try and retain the Six Nations," he continued.

"Some of that has probably come out of our hands. The only thing we can deal with is winning the game that is in front of us so the Italian game is a chance for us to get back on the horse.

"The Six Nations is such a big competition in itself that it has to be treated with the respect that it deserves and we are certainly doing that."

Murphy insists Sexton won't change style

Sexton suffered an injury in Ireland win over Scotland
Sexton suffered an injury in Ireland's win over Scotland

Murphy also insisted that Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton will not alter his confrontational playing style.

Boss Schmidt had admitted that Sexton acts as bait to opposing defenders in the wake of the British and Irish Lions star's head injury scare after 24 minutes of Ireland's 22-13 win in Scotland earlier this month.

"He plays flat on the line. When you play flat on the line, you are going to get hit," said Murphy.

"Obviously, we don't want him off the pitch, but there is definitely a fine line between what is fair and what isn't fair.

"As long as the referees are able to judge that and decide that, Johnny is not going to change the way he plays.

"If he changes, he is not the same player he was. He doesn't create the same holes for players that he creates for other people."

Murphy added: "He needs to play the game he feels is best. He is a confrontational type of character, he wants to play on the gain line."