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24th Oct 2018

Conor Murray opens up on neck injury, and why he and Munster kept it quiet

Patrick McCarry

Conor Murray has spoken out about his decision to request Munster hold back on details of his recent neck injury

The scrumhalf is ‘back doing 90% of training’ with Munster for the last three weeks and taking modified contact. All good in terms of progress but not enough to see him included in Ireland’s squad for the Guinness Series in November.

Murray recently signed a three-year contract extension with his province, and the IRFU, and was delighted with the show of faith after the neck injury that flared up on the summer tour to Australia.

“The reason we kept it quiet at the start is because we didn’t know what it was,” he says. “That was my whole thinking behind it, it wasn’t ever the whole data protection or me keeping it secret.

“It was, ‘Look, I don’t know what this is yet fully, I don’t know when I’m going to be back, so let’s just say I’m managing an injury’.

“From my side, I said it to Johann [van Graan] and I said it to Fiona [Murphy, press officer] down in Munster, ‘Let’s just keep it here and say I’m managing an injury until we find out how long it’s going to take’.

“I think a week or two later, we said it was a neck injury, that we were managing my neck injury and then by the time we said that, the rumour mill had started, everything had snowballed and it was just this big deal.

“I’m nearly there, that’s what we can say, I’m nearly there. I think in the next few weeks I’ll be allowed play. I’m itching to play, I’m pretty much fully training and I feel good. It’s just making sure it’s right and the lines of communication with Munster, the IRFU, the national coaches, everyone has been clear and they’re happy I just get it right and make sure I come back ready to go, rather than pushing it.

“This isn’t an injury you can push, it’s in my neck and you’ve just to make sure it’s strong enough to come back and play professional rugby.”

An MRI, undertaken four weeks ago, revealed significant progress in his neck issues. “The disc is gone back in,” says Murray. “It was just a bulging disk like I’ve had – nothing major.”

Murray started all three of Ireland’s summer Tests against Australia but has yet to feature for Munster this season.

He has been troubled in the past with a neck injury, which reduced power in his arm and forced him to sit out 10 weeks of the 2016/17 season. He returned in time for the PRO12 final – a loss to Scarlets – but showed no obvious signs of ill effects when starting and starring on the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan is hopeful to have Murray back later in the year but admitted, on Monday, that he does not expect to see him on Ireland duty in November.

Asked how he will cope with missing out on the white-hot Test match action in November, Murray admits, “It’s split really.

“As a fan it’s really exciting, this November is going to be really, really cool. The last few weeks at Munster and being a fan, it’s been enjoyable to watch because the lads have gone quite well, particularly in Europe, but then there’s the other side of being a player.

“If you’re fit, you have the potential of being involved in those games; Europe with Munster and November with Ireland. That’s tough, that is tough.”

“Particularly with Ireland,” he adds, “we’ve said it before, no matter what player it is – a player gets injured and another player comes in and the machine keeps going, it keeps on turning out performances and results. That’s how I envisage November going.”