Warren Gatland reveals Conor Murray injury setback and has issued the scrumhalf a fitness ultimatum
Conor Murray is in a race to prove his fitness for the Lions tour of New Zealand.
Warren Gatland has shed new light on the seriousness of the Ireland scrum-half’s shoulder/neck injury and says he must play at least once for Munster to prove his fitness to make the plane.
The Lions coach definitively ruled the 27-year-old out of contention for Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens and revealed that the player had met with a neurologist about his problematic nerve issue.
Murray was one of 11 Irish players named in Gatland’s 41-man squad to tour New Zealand in June and July.
The Munster No 9 got injured when playing for Ireland against Wales on March 10 and has yet to make a return to action.
Although initially reported as a shoulder ‘stinger’ injury that has been monitored on a weekly basis, Gatland revealed that Murray had suffered a setback in recent weeks and had to consult a specialist.
After Saturday’s semi-final, Munster have two regular season games left in the Guinness PRO12 and a guaranteed play-off semi-final on May 20, which means Murray has at least another month to get back on the pitch.
“It is a concern,” Gatland said. “He’s got a nerve issue. I spoke to the doctor yesterday. He was hoping to be fit this week. He had a setback a couple of weeks ago.
“He’s going to need to play before he gets on the plane. That’s going to be important for us. I would be reluctant to take someone to New Zealand with a neck injury who hasn’t played. His last game was against Wales, on March 10.
“He’s incredibly fit. It’s causing him a bit of discomfort and a bit of weakness in his arm, and hopefully he’s going to be right in a couple of weeks – the neurologist is confident he’s going to be OK. He’s had some disc problems in the past, but that’s not what’s causing the issue. It’s some nerve problem that he’s got.
“Look, it’s a concern, because he is a quality player. He’s disappointed himself.
“Hopefully he’s going to be right in a couple of weeks and get one or two games under his belt.”
Jared Payne was perhaps the most surprising Irish inclusion in the Lions squad, with the New Zealand-born back picked ahead of Keith Earls, while Donnacha Ryan missed out on selection.