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Murray's return to Ireland camp gives Schmidt 'food for thought'

The scrum-half remains unlikely to feature for Ireland against the All Blacks.

Murray Kinsella reports from Chicago

CONOR MURRAY CAME through a three-day training camp with a group of fellow senior Ireland internationals this week to give Joe Schmidt “food for thought” ahead of the November Tests.

The scrum-half was not named in Ireland’s 42-man squad for this month’s run of four games against Italy, Argentina, New Zealand and the US after missing the start of the season as he managed a neck injury.

Conor Murray celebrates after the game Murray hasn't played since the June tour of Australia. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

However, Murray is now close to making a return to play and he was in Carton House this week along with Schmidt and a handful of Ireland players who did not travel to the US for the clash with Italy.

Murray showed up well in the short camp, working with the likes of Johnny Sexton, Rory Best and Robbie Henshaw, and though the Ireland head coach indicated that they would be cautious with the scrum-half, he could come into contention to feature against the All Blacks on 17 November.

“Based on his training in the last few days, he’s super, super sharp,” said Schmidt after arriving in Chicago on Thursday.

“He did the bit of contact that we did, certainly his pass and his running. We didn’t do anything really for him to do a lot of kicking but he was sharp.

“We’re going to probably err on the side of being conservative with Conor, just because we want to make sure that he is fully comfortable before he returns to the pitch, whether it be for us or whether it be for Munster.

“It probably wouldn’t have been an intention of ours, but it’s not for a lack of him pushing. He pushed in the right manner because he trained in a very sharp manner.”

At present, it seems unlikely that Murray will make his return for Ireland against the Kiwis, with Munster’s clash against Zebre on 25 November perhaps being a more realistic target.

But Schmidt, while acknowledging that Murray is a long shot for the All Blacks game, did indicate that the scrum-half is at least in his thinking again for Ireland selection.

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Conor Murray Murray has come through contact training. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think because we are going to err on the side of caution, I just think at this stage, he would be a very outside chance of being involved,” said Schmidt.

“It would be a tough ask. He hasn’t played since the third Test in Australia [in June] and then you’ve got play the All Blacks.

“Either way you mark it up against Aaron Smith – an absolute whippet, class pass, very good kicking game – or TJ Perenara, who brings most of the above and probably a little bit more physicality with it.

“So I think one of the things for us is, what we want to be able to do is say that we’ve got these guys who are fully fit, they have got a bit of playing rhythm, we want to be as positive as we can be about that.

“Then we will balance things up. To be honest, he would have to be really flying in that New Zealand week to be involved.

“It definitely gave me food for thought, the last few days working with him and seeing how sharp he was.”

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