'I'm not saying that to stir any trouble' - Steve Hansen convinced Conor Murray will be fit to face All Blacks
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is convinced his team will face Conor Murray when they take on Ireland on Saturday.
The scrum-half has not played in five months, but could be added to Joe Schmidt's squad tomorrow as preparations for the clash of the world's top two teams step up.
A neck injury has kept Murray on the sidelines so far this season. He has not played for Munster so far this campaign and last month he said he was targeting a return at the end of the month.
However, he was in the Irish set-up at the outset of the international window, before heading to Dubai for a short break last week.
Schmidt said he would speak to Murray today and see if he felt ready to come back into the side.
He admitted that it would be "tough to throw him into a game of this magnitude, so it's highly unlikely that he will be involved".
Read more here:
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New Zealand arrived in Dublin this afternoon and their coach held a press conference at their Blanchardstown base.
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And, having previously speculated that Murray's absence from the squad was an "Irish trick", Hansen said he fully expects the scrum-half to play.
"I just saw the game," he said of Ireland's win over Argentina on Saturday.
"I haven't really looked at it too much. Had a good look at them prior to that. They're a good team. So. Tactically they're smart, they're good in the air, I'm assuming Conor Muray will play, they have a good spine.
"He and Sexton are two of the best players in the world so they'll drive them around the park good."
Pressed on whether Murray playing was too big a risk after a five month absence, Hansen drew parallels with Brodie Retallick who recently returned from injury and hit the ground running, starring in the world champions' win over England last weekend.
"Brodie Retallick hadn't played too much either, so.... big players will get up and if they think they're right to play then let them play.
"They're competitors, Conor Murray's a real competitor. If he says he's right to play, let him play.
"I'm not saying that to stir any trouble. But he's a real competitor. He'll want to play. If he's got a chance I think he’ll play.
"If it was one of our guys in the same boat I’d say he be putting his hand up."
After narrowly beating England last weekend, Hansen is not playing down the significance of Saturday's game in Dublin.
"Well, it's Nos 1 and 2 (in the world) so whoever wins will be the best side in the world regardless of ranking.
"That's what people will take out of it, it's going to be a goody."