Friday 20 October 2017

Conor Murray: We can't rely on Chicago repeat to beat the All Blacks

Conor Murray believes it will not take him long to get back up to full speed. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Conor Murray believes it will not take him long to get back up to full speed. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

On the quiet days during his recovery from injury, Conor Murray saw it all flash before his eyes and threaten to pass him by. On the loudest days, he watched on as Munster descended on Lansdowne Road and couldn't get it done without him.

The shoulder injury he suffered in Cardiff on March 11 has robbed two months of his season and he's frustrated at missing out, but there remains much to play for.

Now, he says he is ready to return. Whether Munster decided to give him a dry run against Connacht tomorrow remains to be seen, but the home Guinness PRO12 semi-final is inked into his calendar as the day he'll prove to Warren Gatland and everyone else that he is fit and well.

His season has already been epic, encapsulating his 10/10 performance in Chicago, his battles with Glasgow Warriors and Scotland and Munster's redemptive run.

After being cut down, he is ready to roar back with the Lions and while the enforced break took away so much, it may yet prove to be the oxygen that fuels the rest of his season.

"I'm not a good spectator, especially when you know you can add value or you could be out there helping your team," he reflects.

Exciting

"The England game was really tough to watch. It was really exciting. I was so happy for the lads to put an end to the English run, deny them a Grand Slam and put in a big performance to finish the Six Nations was awesome.

"It was frustrating with Munster as well, missing the quarter-final. I was named in the team and we were going well. It was just a decision by the medics that I wasn't ready.

"I felt ready but the strength wasn't at a level where they were happy. If you got another bang on it, you mightn't get the strength back. You have to be really sure.

"Missing the semi-final in the Aviva was probably the most frustrating to be honest. Seeing the Aviva full of Munster supporters; the noise, the atmosphere, the potential to reach a final, the regret that you could have done something to help... it was a terrible time to get injured.

"I'm through it now. I feel I'm ready to play. There's big games left in the season domestically, there's the tour. If you were looking at missing that through injury, it'd be really hard to take, because I know it's going to a really exciting tour, a massive part of my career hopefully. So it's great to be back, but it's been a frustrating six or seven weeks."

Chicago has faded into memory, but its place in the muscle memory will do some good to the players who tour New Zealand next month.

Warren Gatland has already referenced it as an inspiration, while All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was quick to point out that his side have already gotten revenge.

But the nature of the win and the fact that the world's best appeared human for a fleeting afternoon at Soldier Field will be of assistance when the going gets tough on tour. For all of that, Murray says the Lions must find their own way.

"It was an awesome day. But it was a completely different team," he says.

"From an Irish player's perspective, having beaten them, you're definitely going to take confidence from it, you couldn't not do that.

"So that's going to be massive down there, knowing that it can be done.

"At the same time, when four countries come together you've got to gel as a team. It's going to be a new team and we have to figure out how to beat them with that team.

"Against the All Blacks, you've got to play and you've got to go after it. We saw in 2013 when we sat back and they didn't do anything special, but still scored a match-winning try in the dying seconds. You've got to keep going after them.

"That (Chicago) was a long time ago in sporting terms. So, you'd have to take confidence from it but it's not going to be the be all and end all and it mightn't be our tactics."

Murray was one of the success stories of the 2013 tour.

"Confidence-wise, the coaching I got down there, the belief I got in myself to be part of a Lions series-winning team was massive," he recalled.

"I came back to Ireland probably a new player, mentally more so than anything else."

Before he travels, the mission is to win a first trophy with Munster since his breakthrough season in 2011.

"Especially the season we've had, how hard we worked, the emotion attached to this season with Axel's passing - that's still a massive thing in our squad, it will be for a long time - to miss out on the European final is horrible," he adds. "We've been through tough times over the last two years, we're a new team, performing well, we're happy with our coaches. We're delighted Rassie (Erasmus) is staying on, we can keep developing.

"We're on an upward curve definitely. I've massive belief in this squad; if we were to make a final it would be massive."

Conor Murray was speaking at the relaunch of Maxi Muscle in Ireland with their 'Home of gains' campaign

Irish Independent

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