Conor Murray ready to step into Keatley’s spot at outhalf if required
With JJ Hanrahan out through injury, Munster are dangerously thin on cover for the pivotal No 10 position
Munster’s Conor Murray is tackled by Florian Fritz of Toulouse during the Heineken Cupquarter-final at Thomond Park. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray could find himself playing at outhalf for Munster should anything happen to Ian Keatley in Sunday’s semi-final against Toulon in Marseille. Not for the first time Munster may need to be as creative as Ireland were in Rome last year when backrow Peter O’Mahony moved out to the wing following injury to Luke Fitzgerald and Luke Marshall.
Former Irish prop Marcus Horan, a Sky pundit and dual Heineken Cup winner said Murray has been primed for the shift should anything happen to Keatley prior to or during the match. With JJ Hanrahan out through injury, Munster are dangerously thin on cover for the pivotal position.
“You’re down to one outhalf, another one who is not registered and you could definitely have Conor Murray starting at ten if something disastrous happens before kick-off,” said Horan.
“He’s been training for two weeks there and he was practising kicking before the Toulouse game. This has been flagged a long while and every scenario is planned in advance.”
Munster’s place in the final may come down to how well their bench performs and it’s anticipated that Toulon will have eight international players ready to jump into action. Apart from lock Donncha O’Callaghan, the Munster back-up won’t have a fraction of that experience.
But Horan believes the Irish side could make Toulon’s firepower irrelevant and when they do emerge from the dugout they won’t stand on ceremony against the decorated French side, who may have Martin Castrogiovanni, Maxime Mermoz and Bryan Habana on their bench.
“No doubt, they’ve way more quality and experience. But is Bryan Habana sharp enough,” says Horan. “Can they get the ball to him? Sure, they’ve way more experience right across the board. But the key for Munster is to take that influence out of the game as early as possible. Make it a tight game. Make them worry. . . ”