Saturday 24 March 2018

Coach dismisses fears over Murray's fitness for battle after suffering third concussion in last year

Conor Murray receives treatment before leaving the field yesterday Photo: Matt Browne
Conor Murray receives treatment before leaving the field yesterday Photo: Matt Browne

Nick Purewal

Joe Schmidt insists Conor Murray will be fit to start the World Cup despite suffering a concussion in Ireland's defeat to England. Schmidt defended his decision to gamble on selecting just two recognised scrum-halves in his final World Cup squad, despite the scare over frontline half-back Murray.

Jonny May and Anthony Watson's first-half tries condemned Ireland to their second-successive defeat, with two weeks to go until their Pool D World Cup opener against Canada in Cardiff.

Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo were at fault for England's tries, but Schmidt has vowed not to wield the axe, with World Cup action hurtling into view. "Conor went through all the head injury assessments successfully, but because he was knocked down it was pertinent to leave him off the pitch so he sat it out," said Schmidt, confirming Murray's concussion.

"He'll go through the return to play protocols which should see him fully fit for the start of the World Cup." Murray has now suffered three concussions inside the last year, with head blows against Zebre and in Test action against Australia in November.

Schmidt claimed there are no lingering fears over Murray, insisting his successive concussions do not require the 25-year-old to be stood down. "I think that it's been a long time since he had one," said Schmidt. "I think the severity of it was that, I don't know if you saw him coming off the pitch, but he was fine.

"One of the good things in the modern game is he's removed from the pitch and stays off the pitch. Going back 10 or 15 years he probably would have just played on." Fly-half Ian Madigan will deputise at scrum-half amid World Cup injuries, with Isaac Boss and Kieran Marmion omitted from Ireland's final squad of 31. Schmidt defended that strategy, confident Murray will be ready to face Canada in Cardiff on Saturday, September 19. "I think if we didn't gamble there we were gambling somewhere else," he added. "To cover all your options with 31 players, it's not possible really. As soon as you have three hookers, you can only have two of everything else.

"If we picked another nine we probably had to give up either a midfielder or one of our back-three. It's an imperfect selection because it's an imperfect number, and that's fair because that's what everyone's got. If we do get an injury then we have to make a decision, whether to replace a player or risk the specialist recovering."

Schmidt claimed Ireland are not at panic-stations after the 16-10 defeat to Wales and yesterday's Twickenham loss, pledging not to jettison the likes of Zebo and Bowe, who both struggled .

"I don't think there's too much panic from us," he said. "There's always a nervousness, there's always an anxiety: but over the last two years we've done enough to demonstrate we can hang in there and get results. I think we try to be as global as we can when we look at performance.

"If someone's made a mistake it's because they are human. "If they repeat the mistake and we see they need to work on that, they maybe work on that away from being selected the next time, and hopefully that can be remedied. But we wouldn't really be trigger-happy about maybe tailing someone who's made a few mistakes and saying that's untenable and therefore we're going to move you on."

England coach Stuart Lancaster, meanwhile, declared his side ready for the World Cup. ""It's a results-based business and I understand that, but I think this team is ready," he said. "There are six or seven teams who could win it - I would add to the list Ireland, Australia, Wales, New Zealand, South Africa, the list goes on - and whoever does win it will have to put together a run of six or seven performances on the bounce.

"That's our challenge as well, but playing at Twickenham the way we did against Ireland, we're a hard team to beat."

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