Conor Murray rules out changing his game
Farrell out of clash with Castres, although it looks as if Carbery has chance of playing
Munster’s Conor Murray against Castres at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Conor Murray says he will not change the way he plays the game despite his recent layoff due to a neck injury.
Murray has only made three appearances this season after he was forced to take nearly five months out of the game due to injury, and he admits it has been tough to block out his mental concerns on his return to the side.
But with 80 minutes against Edinburgh and another 70 against Castres, he feels he can play his part now, and that the patience shown in managing his return is paying off.
“No. You can’t [change how you play]. I don’t think that would be an option. No. That’s a simple answer,” said Murray, who is in line to make his 120th Munster appearance this Saturday.
“It’s not [easy to block out your concerns]. I think you rep it as much as you can in training, and go through that physical contact and that tackle entry. It’s not until you play a game and you take a few belts without thinking about it, and then you come through it and you get up and you’re fine.
“It’s not like a hamstring tear. It is your neck, and I suppose you have that awareness of it. But we took the amount of time that was absolutely necessary to get it fully right.
“It’s fully right now, thankfully. It’s something I have to keep on top of in terms of pre-hab and stuff like that. It feels good now, thankfully.
“You could have pushed and then you get a bang and it sets you back even more. While it was tough and frustrating to watch the lads playing in November, with the big win against the All Blacks as well – that’s tough viewing.
“At the end of the day getting my neck right was much bigger than that, personally for me. I’m glad I took the time. I’m glad I feel great now.”
In the hours before Munster faced Castres last weekend they were forced to withdraw Joey Carbery (hamstring) and Chris Farrell (thigh) due to injury. Farrell has been ruled out of this weekend’s trip to France by coach Johann van Graan, although it looks as if Carbery has a chance of playing.
Murray has played and trained alongside Carbery in the Ireland shirt, but he is looking forward to his new half-back partner in Munster.
“Yeah, it is exciting. I have had limited game time with Joey with Ireland. It’s exciting. Like I said at the start of the season, he’s going to be a massive player for Munster and Ireland for years to come. I can’t wait to get going with him, but there are a lot of 10s here.
“I think JJ [Hanrahan] went really well last weekend. Especially off the tee against Edinburgh. He didn’t have his best day. Mentally to come back and kick everything 100 per cent off the tee in a big European game is a massive credit to him for that.
“I’m sure JJ wants to play again this weekend. Joey is pushing him to be back fit. So it’s exciting.”
Farrell has been sent for a scan on his thigh injury, and according to the coach the centre may “not be available for a bit of time”, although he doesn’t think it is a serious problem.
On a positive note Jean Kleyn, Tommy O’Donnell, Liam O’Connor, Stephen Fitzgerald and Stephen Archer have all returned to training following their injury issues. Chris Cloete is also available after he passed the head injury assessment he was asked to undertake during the victory over Castres at the weekend.
A win against Castres at Stade Pierre Fabre this Saturday will see Munster in a very strong position with two games remaining in their Champions Cup pool. Currently they lead Gloucester by three points, and with their English pool rivals Exeter and Gloucester set to meet again this weekend, they could well extend that advantage.
Yet Murray is expecting a huge test from the French outfit, with memories of their 17-17 draw there last season still at the back of his mind.
“There’ll be a backlash from last weekend. There was a bit of niggle in the game, and it probably distracted us a little bit towards the end of the game when we could have pushed on and got a bonus point.
“So they’ll be firing from last weekend, or reeling from last weekend, and we’ve got to be really task-focused going down there. We drew down there last year, and we were lucky at certain times down there, but also we had opportunities we could have taken.
“We know it will be completely different, that it will be a much tighter game. Again, their set-piece, their maul, lineout, scrum, especially their scrum. They’ll be disappointed and they’ll be doing an awful lot of work on that the week, I presume, and it will be a lot tougher.”