Johnny Sexton reckons Conor Murray is a victim of his own success and has become a marked man.

The Munster scrum-half has gone a year without an international try and his trademark sniping runs have become conspicuous by their absence.

While statistics don't tell the full story a quick look at some numbers from the World Cup are worrying.

The 30-year-old failed to register one offload, one clean break or even beat a defender in four games in Japan. Overall, he made 11 runs and kicked from hand 30 times.

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Murray overcame a nasty neck injury that kept him out of action for a large part of 2018 and has struggled to find the form that terrorised the world's top teams in the two years prior to that.

Speaking to the RTE Rugby podcast, former Ireland boss Eddie O'Sullivan said "it's like someone's told him not to do it anymore."

Asked about his half-back partner, Ireland captain Sexton, said that the reason for Murray's perceived lack of threat around the ruck recently could be both tactical and down to the fact that opportunities might not be presenting themselves.

"Conor has scope to go and snipe" Sexton, who will lead the team out against Wales at the Aviva on Saturday, told RTÉ Sport.

"But international rugby, it doesn't always open up.

"It’s not like provincial rugby or even some Heineken Cup games. It’s proper Test match rugby. Last week [against Scotland] was a proper Test match.

"The biggest problem for Conor is he’s had those games [like] where he’s ripped up the All Blacks in Chicago, but then you become a marked man.

"I'm sure he’ll play well again this week"

"Then sometimes the space isn’t there. It’s not as simple as 'why didn’t that work? He didn’t do it this game.’

"He’s played well. I watched his game against the Ospreys, he played well. He played really well last week. I’m sure he’ll play well again this week.

"When those opportunities present themselves, or if they present themselves, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go.

"But I don’t think they did last week. Some of that was the speed of ball.

"We were playing a lot of unstructured play. At [one point] we came out, went down the touchline, got called back for a penalty for obstruction, probably we could have scored a try there and it was pretty good play."

Sexton is among nine Ireland players who started the one-sided loss to Wales in last season's championship decider in Cardiff that are named in Andy Farrell's side for the match. 

The 34-year-old admits that that defeat still plays on his mind.

"Yeah of course [it still stings]," he said.

"They were going for a Grand Slam, we were going for a championship.

"We got well beaten out the gate. It was a very disappointing day, and one that… anytime you lose for Ireland, it never leaves you. You think about it a lot and that was one of those days."

Follow Ireland v Wales (kick-off 2.15pm) on Saturday via our live blog on RTE.ie/Sport and the News Now app or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport. Highlights on Against the Head, Monday at 8pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.