Thursday 19 April 2018

Murray in fight for No 9 shirt as Phillips gets injury all-clear

Conor Murray
Conor Murray
Conor George

Conor George

CONOR MURRAY will have to fight off the attentions of the returning Mike Phillips if he is to start Saturday's third and deciding Test in Sydney.

Murray was outstanding when introduced off the bench on Saturday and, under normal circumstances, could rightly expect to take the starter's jersey.

Welsh star Phillips is a favourite of the coaches and after sitting out Saturday's Test is expected to return to full training this week.

The Lions squad are taking a couple of days in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast to recover from their exertions before decamping to Sydney on Thursday, and defence coach Andy Farrell believes the squad has it within them to rise to the challenge.

"Mike is fine," said Farrell. "He needed an inflammation injection in his knee and that was going to take him out of training for two or three days anyway.

"He's reacted very well to that. He's fine and ready to go."

The scrum-half position is one of a number of changes the Lions coaches are understood to be considering after Saturday's second Test loss in Melbourne.

EXPOSED

Loosehead prop Mako Vunipola played the full 80 minutes on Saturday but his poor scrummaging technique was ruthlessly exposed by the Australians.

If Alex Corbisiero is not fit, Scotland's Ryan Grant might feature.

Centre Jamie Roberts has recovered from a hamstring injury and will come into consideration for a starting berth alongside Brian O'Driscoll.

Farrell confirmed that Corbisiero and Roberts will return to full training tomorrow before a decision is taken on their availability, while the results of the scan on Sam Warburton's hamstring should be known this afternoon.

The squad were, Farrell acknowledged, hugely disappointed at the result but will be rejuvenated for the decider.

"We all realise there's a fantastic performance in every team and I don't think we've seen a fantastic performance out of this squad yet," he said.

"I think we've seen some very good performances. Hopefully we'll see the best at the last hurdle come Saturday."

The Lions' performance and result has the camp scrambling for any positivity they can find ahead of what Farrell believes is "the biggest game of our lives".

"Australia will be very pleased. We were lucky in the first game to get away with a win, and in the second game we could have won. I suppose you could say after those two games 1-1 is a fair way to look at it," he said.

Irish Independent

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