GEORDAN MURPHY is a man in demand. He can hardly manage five footsteps through the media conference room in the CityWest Hotel without somebody wanting to record his thoughts. "RTE television, Geordan. Thirty seconds, I promise, " they say with a faked sincerity that would put many second-hand car salesmen to shame.

"Sure, " he responds with the knowing smile of a man who's aware of exactly how long it's going to take, "no problem at all." Twenty minutes later, after UTV, BBC and Sky have gone through the same smash-and-grab routine, he remains utterly polite and completely unruffled by it all, the only thing appearing to bother him being the fact he's kept you waiting so long.

You ask him how he puts up with all the media trappings and, while many players out there view it as an additional and unnecessary evil, he answers by saying it's an integral part of the job. You wonder how long he'll keep that attitude because he's popping up in the celebrity pages of the tabloids on a regular basis these days. His crime, well, he's been dating English songstress Lucie Silvas for the past four years and now her voice is making an impression on the charts, Geordan and Lucie have become news. Last week one Irish tabloid ran a story suggesting Murphy would have a sex-ban imposed on him by Eddie O'Sullivan when Silvas comes to play at the Meteor Music Awards in Dublin later this month. It was tongue-in-cheek stuff but how did it make him feel?

"I have no problem at all being in the sports pages, " he says, "although sometimes I wonder why anyone has any interest in listening to what I have to say. The other stuff, well, there's not a lot you can do about it really. If people want to write about me and my girlfriend I guess they're entitled to but why it's of interest to anyone else, I'll never understand. I'm not the type of person who goes to movie premieres or comes out of posh nightclubs late at night so I don't think I'll be in the papers too much in the future. In the case of that particular story, it's obviously somebody putting two and two together and getting five.

Eddie treats us like adults and there are never any bans on anything. But I find the whole thing kind of amusing more than anything else."

On the same theme, he feels a certain sympathy for the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O'Driscoll, players who have been caught in the full glare of rugby's new found popularity. "It's a tricky area, " he admits. "They're both sportsmen and they're in the public eye. I don't see a lot of what's written about Brian because I'm across the water but I do feel sorry for Jonny.

He's a really down to earth guy, he's got a huge talent and the tabloids now feel they own a piece of him. I've never spoken to him or Brian about it but it can't be easy. The game is growing rapidly and I suppose that's one of the side-effects we all have to deal with."

This afternoon all those superfluous factors will be put to one side as Murphy prepares to play for Ireland in the position he knows and loves best. He's always viewed the number 15 jersey as his true home but he's never quite made it his own on the international stage, for reasons many and varied. Initially, there was a distrust of the player's talents, a suspicion that anybody who played the game as naturally as Murphy couldn't possibly make a tackle or field a garryowen.

That natural ability became a further curse when it came to injuries in other areas of the squad, because when a shuffle was necessary, the 26-year-old was always trusted to adapt to a new position. Then, of course, there was his own injury, the broken leg against Scotland that ruled him out of the game for seven months.

All those reasons, or socalled reasons, are redundant right now and Murphy's back where he belongs. Of his 26 caps, he claims he hasn't a clue how many of them have come at full-back, although over the course of the conversation he highlights with some degree of clarity certain games where he started at 15. But there isn't a Craig Bellamy-esque bone in Murphy's body in that he's never complained about being shunted from full-back to wing and back again and he's talked about the process so many times, he could probably compile a master's thesis on the topic.

"It's the one question I'm always asked and the simple answer is I enjoy full-back better because I'm more comfortable playing there, " he says. "I've played there at underage, at schools and with Leicester. It's a position I don't have to concentrate as much on, it comes that little bit more naturally to me."

Technically then, what are the differences? "Going forward, " he says, "you can see all the lines in front of you, the gaps opening up and the places where you need to go with the ball. On the wing you're slightly more dependent on others and at times it's as though you have to look around the corner to see what's happening. A lot of the time at full-back you're waiting for kicks to come to you where as on the wing, you often have to turn 40 metres backwards to turn around and go forward again. In a defensive sense, you have that bit more responsibility at fullback, you have to make the right decisions with regards running or kicking the ball and you are the last covering man. But as I said, all that sort of thing comes natural to me, I've grown up with it."

He's also keen to highlight that in a backline loaded with talent, as Ireland's undoubtedly is, the number on your back becomes less and less important. "We've been working on inter-changing positions and that's the joy of phase play in this day and age, " he says. "When we have breakdowns I can get to different positions and we can run different moves off that.

That's something we've done a lot over the last few weeks and it's fantastic because it enables me to pop up in positions you normally wouldn't see me in. The same applies to the other guys."

He's clearly excited about the merging of Ireland's backline talents, as he is about the side's Six Nations Championship prospects. More so than any other member of the Irish set-up, Murphy knows what it's like to touch silverware rather than to simply strive for it. He's won three Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups with Leicester in the past four years, and in that particular set-up, he's surrounded by men . . . Martin Johnson, Neil Back, etc . . . who'd be considered winners by any definition of the word.

"If I had to highlight what's so special about these guys, " says Murphy, "I'd have to say it's their attitude on the training pitch. Sure, they can have a laugh with the best of them but they always put in 100 per cent on the training field without fail. I'd say most of what we've achieved at Leicester has come through the effort we've put in during the week. Johnno [Martin Johnson] is a ferocious competitor and he sets the example for everyone. But I'd also like to think I've set my own standards rather than learning from him and the other guys all the time."

Murphy can now see that Leicester attitude permeating the Irish camp. He firmly believes the side should frontup to, rather than shy away from, the favourite's tag which has been foisted upon them. "Everyone's talking about us being potential winners of the Six Nations and the reason why is because we've proved ourselves over the past couple of years. And if other people think we can win, it makes me think we can do it too. We can't lose the run of ourselves but we should be heading into this campaign with a certain amount of confidence."

And today? "Physically, it's going to be very tough because the Italians hit harder than anyone in international rugby. If we can get clean ball out to the backs, it should be a good day but if we don't do that, it's going to be a hard fought battle."

Whatever happens, at least Murphy will be playing where his talents can be fully appreciated.