Saturday 25 January 2020

New Zealand journalist outlines why Conor Murray is an 'area of concern' for Warren Gatland

Conor Murray of the Lions kicks the ball during the match between the Crusaders and the British & Irish Lions at AMI Stadium
Conor Murray of the Lions kicks the ball during the match between the Crusaders and the British & Irish Lions at AMI Stadium Newsdesk Newsdesk

Conor Murray has been lauded for his display in the Lions 12-3 victory over Super Rugby high flyers Crusaders but one New Zealand pundit has pinpointed an area of concern.

Owen Farrell, Jamie George, George Kruis and Alun Wyn Jones all nailed down their Test match places, with Conor Murray putting himself in the box seat for a start too. Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony are also firmly in the mix after the victory in Christchurch.

Murray's box-kicking was exceptional and put the hosts under pressure all evening.

The Munster man was also terrific in defence, but Mark Reason, writing for believes there is a chink in the armour and Warren Gatland should be concerned by it.

"The accuracy of Conor Murray's kicking was also a huge positive for the Lions and the coordination of their kick and chase was excellent. They took out the receiver but they also had chasers blocking the offload to the supporting players," he said.

"The biggest bother for the Lions was Murray's passing off his left hand. On three separate occasions in the first half he gave the ball back to the Crusaders with awful passes. It may be a legacy of the shoulder injury Murray suffered towards the end of the Six Nations, but the Lions need to sort it out quickly.

"Murray is now probably the best kicking and defensive halfback in the world, but the Lions cannot afford him to pass as poorly as this. On a night when there were so many positives for Gatland, it will probably be his biggest area of concern."

Gregor Paul in the New Zealand Herald described Murray's display as 'masterful'.

"The selection of Conor Murray at halfback and Owen Farrell at No 10 seemed to be enough itself to transform the Lions into something more threatening.

"Murray can run and he can pass even if he spent most of the night booting the ball. He kicked and he kicked and it worked for the Lions. They started to force mistakes and frustrate the Crusaders.

"It was masterful from Murray - a sign of his maturity and tactical reading and the danger with him is that he can mix it up the next time he plays. The All Blacks have been warned - that if they allow Murray control the game, he will. They have also been warned that if they don't deal with the high ball, they will be in trouble.

"Farrell played much the same way as Murray but there's never anything wrong with a lot of kicking if its accurate and fulfils the brief."

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