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Murray could return this weekend but Lions pressure won't be a factor

The injured Munster scrum-half hasn’t played since Ireland’s Six Nations loss to Wales in March.

RASSIE ERASMUS RECKONS there is a chance that Conor Murray could be fit enough to feature against Connacht this Saturday, but Munster’s director of rugby doesn’t want him to be in a rush to prove his fitness ahead of the Lions tour and their Guinness Pro12 semi-final.

After sitting out Munster’s last six games because of injury, Murray is nearing a return according Erasmus, who he is hopeful that the scrum-half could feature at Thomond Park against Pat Lam’s side.

Tyler Blyendaal and Conor Murray Conor Murray (right) pictured with Munster out-half Tyler Bleyendaal during yesterday's training session at UL. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Murray’s progress has been slower than expected since he sustained nerve damage to his shoulder/neck against Wales in the Six Nations in March. The 28-year-old previously sustained shoulder/neck injuries in January against Glasgow, while he also missed two European games in 2015 with a similar problem.

But with Lions head coach Warren Gatland insisting he has to prove his fitness to make the trip, the pressure is on Murray to play for Munster before the end of the season.

“I think maybe Conor is conscious of that, but he hasn’t been saying anything along those lines. I think it would be normal if he felt that way, it only comes around every four years but also you can’t be stupid,” said Erasmus.

“After this Lions series his rugby career is not over; he’s got another few years to go. So obviously that plays a role, but that won’t rush him back. If we didn’t rush him back for the Champions Cup semi-final in Ireland why would we now rush him back all of a sudden? I’m sure there will be other Lions players who will still get injured before the tour.

“He is definitely progressing, he is definitely getting better. I hope he gets a game in. There is definitely two games to go, hopefully in one of those two. He’ll again be touch and go for this week.

“Every week he contributes more in training sessions and he is doing more and more and more. And he has been ticking all the boxes — much slower than we hoped to– but he is ticking the boxes. Hopefully this week he gets to the end of the week and we can actually select him. So there is a chance, there is a chance.”

Rassie Erasmus Rassie Erasmus speaking to the media yesterday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Munster secured a home semi-final in the Pro12 with victory over Treviso last weekend, but that win has come at a considerable cost. Top try-scorer Ronan O’Mahony will miss the rest of the season with a broken leg, while forward Dave O’Callaghan also appears to have a serious knee injury to contend with.

Jean Deysel (rib) and Billy Holland (tonsillitis) are both expected to return to fitness, although Robin Copeland will miss the rest of the season after surgery on a dislocated shoulder. But there was positive news on Mike Sherry, who has made real progress in recent weeks from his back problem.

Erasmus: “He is improving, he is actually improving. There was a time when it really stood still a little bit with his injury, but last week I saw the injury report and there is definitely an improvement, which is great. I think he stood still for a few weeks/months, but there is improvement.

“I think he will [play again], definitely not this season, but it is such a long time since the last game, you have until the next pre-season match and the whole pre-season and everything. Three months is a long time in rugby.”

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Declan Rooney

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