Tuesday 20 March 2018

Conor Murray Reds' unlikely No 10 back-up

Munster star could play pivotal role for Toulon showdown if Keatley gets injured

Munster's Conor Murray during squad training ahead of the match against Connacht on Saturday
Munster's Conor Murray during squad training ahead of the match against Connacht on Saturday
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

CONOR MURRAY could be pressed into service as an emergency out-half for Munster's pivotal Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulon next week if anything happens to Ian Keatley.

With JJ Hanrahan needing a "miraculous" recovery to make the Marseille clash next Sunday after suffering a minor tear to his groin muscle, Reds' coach Rob Penney is considering the Ireland and Lions scrum-half for the role as well as winger Johne Murphy.

Keatley and Hanrahan are the only recognised fly-halves registered in Munster's Euro squad, ruling back-up players Johnny Holland and Rory Scannell out of the pivotal clash. It is too late to make amendments to the ERC squad.

Murray has been practising his goal kicking in the warm-ups before recent games and played at out-half for Garryowen in the AIL, while he also worked with legendary former Wales fly-half Neil Jenkins on last summer's tour of Australia.

Saturday's loss to Glasgow means Penney does not believe he can afford to rest Keatley for Saturday's derby with Connacht as he chases a top-two finish in the Pro12 and Munster will be praying he gets through the meeting with his former club unscathed.

"We've gotta play Ian, yeah, there's no problem there. It's an important game for us this weekend," Penney said. "It's footy though, isn't it? We've got a game to get over this weekend and it's an important one as well."

Asked if he would like to experiment with one of his back-up options for the No 10 spot, Penney said: "We wouldn't be talking like that against Connacht at home. Munster has traditionally had a very tough battle up there."

Simon Zebo and Keith Earls were rested from yesterday's session at UL, while BJ Botha was also absent with a bug, but is expected to get over the illness and his ankle issues to partake in Saturday's visit to the Sportsground. Donnacha Ryan trained separately from the squad along with Casey Laulala and neither is being ruled out definitively of next week's trip to the Stade Velodrome.

Meanwhile, Leinster's Sean O'Brien has indicated he could make an earlier than expected return from his shoulder injury and take some part in this season's run-in and the Ireland tour of Argentina.

'That no one is calling for ROG return heaps credit on Keatley'

Irish Independent

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