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Dublin: 12°C Friday 23 April 2021

Murray leaves Carton camp, but Ireland refuse to rule him out of All Blacks Test

The scrum-half was in Carton House last week, but won’t train with Joe Schmidt’s squad ahead of Argentina.

CONOR MURRAY WON’T train with Ireland at Carton House this week and will instead return to Munster to continue his rehabilitation from a neck injury.

The scrum-half stepped up his recovery under the supervision of the IRFU medical team last week, but it now seems highly unlikely he’ll be fit to face the All Blacks on 17 November.

Conor Murray Murray is in a race to be fit for the All Blacks. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek earlier confirmed Murray is not in camp ahead of Saturday’s clash with Argentina at the Aviva Stadium, but insisted he is not yet ruled out of making a remarkable comeback against the world champions.

Murray, who was last night in Paris to collect Midi Olympique’s ‘World Player of the Year’ award, was not included in Joe Schmidt’s 42-man squad for this November schedule having not played since the third Test against Australia in June.

Although the 29-year-old initially said he was targeting Munster’s Pro14 fixtures later this month as possible return dates, the possibility of him playing against the All Blacks was raised by Simon Easterby in Chicago last week.

Murray was part of a group of players — including Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony — who trained under Schmidt’s guidance at Carton House in the early part of last week, while the rest of the group were in America preparing for the Test against Italy. 

When asked for an update on Murray’s fitness this afternoon, Feek said: “He’s not in camp. Again it’s another one that we’re just monitoring and I’m still getting up to speed with all that as well.

It’s something that obviously not being here this week, they’re freshening him up and he is just trying to tick some boxes to get back in the frame. We already have three half-backs there so there’s no point in carrying one more.

In Murray’s continued absence, Luke McGrath appears to be in the box seat to deputise at nine this weekend having started the facile win over Italy at Soldier Field, while Kieran Marmion has linked up with the squad after playing for Connacht on Saturday evening.

Leinster’s McGrath, who wasn’t part of the squad for the summer tour of Australia after struggling with injuries throughout the second half of last season, won his seventh cap against the Azzurri, but just his second start in green. 

The 25-year-old, partnering Joey Carbery in the half-backs, settled into the game as it progressed, scoring his second international try just before the break after one of Jordan Larmour’s bursting breaks and was relatively pleased with his overall performance.

“I was extremely excited, almost nervously excited, to get out there especially in a place like Soldier Field,” he said.

Luke McGrath Luke McGrath is pushing for a start this weekend. Source: Cameron Blair/INPHO

“It was an incredible week and as the game went on, I felt I got into it and really enjoyed it in the end. 

“I was probably a little bit nervous because I hadn’t been in the summer squad, I was just coming back into camp. It’s a nervous excitement, I had more family over and it was a very proud moment. It’s just getting the game time, the training sessions here [at Carton House] and getting more comfortable in that role and doing the basics well. ”

For McGrath, regardless of whether Murray is fit or not for the All Blacks, this November schedule offers a real window of opportunity as he looks to transfer his consistently excellent Leinster form onto the international stage.

It appears he is in a direct fight with Marmion for the starting berth on Saturday, with Ulster’s John Cooney — who came off the bench for his third cap in Chicago — also an option for Schmidt.

“I don’t know about that,” he laughs when asked if he feels he’s in the box seat to replace Murray.

“Conor would be a tough man to replace but for me last week was a great opportunity. I hadn’t been in the green shirt in a while, it was great. 

“At the moment I’m just focusing on getting better as a player week on week and hopefully when that time comes, I’ll be ready. We have to focus on Argentina this week and we’re going to have to be a lot better this week, all of us.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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