Conor Murray boost for Lions after Warren Gatland's upbeat assessment
Conor Murray's Lions chances are on the up after Warren Gatland said he expects the Ireland scrum-half to prove his fitness before the tour.
The coach had previously expressed concern over Murray's slow recovery from his shoulder stinger and said he would need to see the 2013 tourist prove his fitness before taking him to New Zealand.
Speaking yesterday, the Kiwi gave a much more positive update on the 28-year-old's prospects of making it on tour and said he expects Murray to play for Munster before the end of the season.
"Conor Murray, the prognosis with him looks pretty positive in terms of hopefully getting back and getting a game for Munster as well, and that will be good for him over the next few weeks if he can get a game," Gatland said.
The coach was also upbeat on the prospect of captain Sam Warburton and second-row Alun-Wyn Jones proving their fitness in time for the tour.
Warburton is currently nursing a knee problem, while Jones is out with a shoulder issue.
"He (Warburton) is good," Gatland said. "I spoke to Sam yesterday, and he feels that he could play now, and so he has made some really good progress and is really happy with how he has responded to treatment over the last few weeks.
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" I expect him to play before he goes to New Zealand.
"(Jones) is making good progress as well. (Lions assistant coach) Steve Borthwick went down and saw him last week, and he's confident that he is going to be okay as well."
Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny has also confirmed that Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal will not stand in his way of joining the Lions when they depart for New Zealand on May 29.
The Top 14 final clashes with the first game of the Lions tour against the New Zealand Barbarians on June 3. Boudjellal has previously fought international-player release when it has overlapped with Toulon fixtures.
However, Halfpenny ensured the Lions release was built into his last contract renewal and revealed that Boudjellal congratulated him in person.
Halfpenny said: "Had I not had that written in then I would have had to look at my options. Representing the Lions is the pinnacle of any rugby player's career. That was a big part of my decision."
Meanwhile, Ireland centre Stuart Olding looks set to be ruled out of the summer tour of the United States and Japan with an ankle injury.