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Dublin: -2 °C Sunday 18 March, 2018

Murray not sore about losing kicking duels with Carbery after knee injury 'fright'

The Munster scrum-half showed off his impressive goal-kicking again in the win over Wales, but he feared he had suffered serious injury minutes earlier.

IT WASN’T JUST Johann van Graan; the whole rugby-watching nation gulped a nervous gulp when Conor Murray went down needing treatment in the win over Wales.

Fortunately, Murray was able to dust himself down after feeling the familiar unwanted sting in his knee.

Conor Murray receives treatment Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Mere minutes later he provided another example of his supreme talent, on top of his exceptional scrum-half play, kicking a clutch penalty that ultimately gave Ireland enough breathing space to see off the Welsh challenge.

It’s an added skill in Murray’s armoury that he’s been working on since the 2013 Lions tour, but it has really come to fruition for club and country in recent seasons.

All going well, he won’t be required on the tee against Scotland this weekend. The same goes in every Test, but Murray is making sure he keeps sharp and ready to strike when required by joining the regular place-kickers’ competition. Well, at least one of the regular place-kickers.

“Johnny (Sexton) does his own thing,” says Murray.

“Maybe with Joey (Carbery), a few coffees on the line after training. I think I owe him a few at the moment.”

Conor Murray kicks a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

While the young out-half seems to hold the edge in consistency, Murray has shown an impressive range of kicking in the red of Munster this season and his ability to step up against Wales while Sexton received treatment was invaluable.

Of course,  a post-training coffee is a paltry wager compared to the pressure of deciding a match with your right boot.  So Murray is grateful for the tidbits of help and advice from skills coach Richie Murphy to counter-balance that big-game pressure with a familiar routine.

The situations I’ve kicked in this season, there has been a bit of pressure. When it comes off it’s enjoyable. Working with Richie Murphy over the last while to have a really solid technique to go to and focus on that rather than the situation or the crowd.

“It’s been good lately.

“It’s something I did as a young player and early days in Munster I took my eye off it to focus on other things.

“If the opportunity comes up, to have it in your back pocket, if you have a chance to slot one over, it’s always a good thing.”

At least for the minute, it’s a good thing for Carbery too as it saves him digging into his pockets to pay for that Carton House caffeine.

“It makes kicking practice a little more interesting, it is always good to get a free coffee now and again,” jokes the Leinster playmaker.

A part of Murray will surely be content just to be involved in these kicking duels this week. Because the injury scare with 14 minutes remaining of the win over Wales triggered both personal memories and thoughts of fellow nines who had succumbed in similar circumstances.

Conor Murray and Rob Kearney arrive for training Conor Murray and Rob Kearney head for training in Maynooth today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We just got counter-rucked and they managed to push a player back on top of me,” recalls Murray, sparing a thought for a fellow Lion.

“It was kind of like what happened Ben Youngs when he did (his medial collateral ligament) against Italy. I just managed to get my knee out of the ground in time so that it wasn’t too serious.

“I’ve strained my knee like that before. It’s sore at the time obviously, by the way I was rolling around, but it quickly comes right. I’ve been working hard with the physios and I feel pretty good.”

Having been restricted to running drills during last week’s open training session in the Aviva Stadium, Murray today reported that he has a full training load to take on this week. A weekend of R and R intensified by Storm Emma has left him itching to attack each session.

“Especially with my knee I didn’t want to (take a risk walking on ice). So there was plenty of movies watched and time on the couch, which was nice.

“It was good to get the feet up, because we didn’t have much choice. There was a bit of cabin fever, it’s good to finally get out and run around a bit.

“(The weather) is not really a distraction for us, it caused a bit of travel difficulty on the way up here, but since we’ve been here the training has been really good. It’s picturesque to train in that kind of weather.”

“I trained fully yesterday and today, the knee feels good. Got a bit of a fright when it happened against Wales, but I’m ready to go.”

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