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'I still don't have my head around it' - Murray honoured to be Lions captain

The 32-year-old said Alun Wyn Jones offered him a few words of advice last night.

Murray is the new Lions captain.
Murray is the new Lions captain.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated Jun 27th 2021, 12:00 PM

CONOR MURRAY SAID he is still trying to get his head around the honour of being named the new Lions captain.

A dislocated shoulder in yesterday’s win over Japan ruled original tour captain Alun Wyn Jones out of the trip to South Africa, with head coach Warren Gatland last night confirming a shock decision to hand Murray the role.

The 32-year-old Limerick man is not a captain for Munster or Ireland but will fly out to South Africa today as the official leader of the 37-man Lions squad.

“We’re very disappointed to lose Alun Wyn,’ said Murray. “He’s been brilliant for the first two weeks. I’ve known him from the past two tours and he’s been incredible. It’s a huge loss.

“Warren asked me just before the cap ceremony and it was surreal. I still don’t have my head around it, but it’s something that is an unbelievable honour, it’s something that I never thought would be possible.

“What kind of puts me at ease is that we’ve such a good leadership group that it means I can continue being myself. There’ll be a little bit more responsibility but I don’t think it should change anything around the camp. I think that’s one of the most important things – that I remain myself, and I assume that’s why Warren asked me to do it.”

Murray admitted to being surprised when Gatland approached him to offer him the captaincy.

“Yeah, a little bit to be honest. I didn’t even think about it. I knew that Al was out and then you just look around the squad and there’s so many contenders. It’s a huge honour, but there’s such a good group of leaders in this squad that it makes it less daunting, definitely. I think there’s lads that you can lean on.

“We’ve seen it even for the first two weeks, a few other players would start to lead or start by saying a few words before training, or whatever the message might be for the week. There’s a group there that know what we’re trying to do and I think that’s going to be the most important thing.”

tadhg-beirne-celebrates-scoring-their-fourth-try-with-conor-murray-josh-adams-and-iain-henderson Murray during yesterday's win over Japan. Source: ©INPHO

Murray mentioned Owen Farrell and Robbie Henshaw – “a real big defensive leader for us” – as being among the players will he will lean on for leadership support.

For now, he is simply coming to terms with Gatland’s decision.

“I tried to call my girlfriend Joanna, but her phone was on 1% as usual. Her phone was off, so my dad is in Edinburgh, he was out with his friends having a few drinks and so he was the first person.

“My mum’s in Kerry and I rang her, she’s down with a few friends who were watching today’s game and they’re celebrating too, so it still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest.”

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Murray said the injured Jones offered him a few words of advice last night, reiterating the message that there is no need for the Irish scrum-half to pretend to be someone he’s not.

“He just came and said, ‘Congrats, and just be yourself’ and I think that’s really important. I think growing up, you probably thought you had to try and be a certain type of person to be a leader, but you just have to be yourself.

“I think once you have the respect of the group around you, I think that’s a massive plus, a massive thing that can calm you down a bit.

“If you have the respect of the lads and you do what you do and you do it honestly and then yeah I think it should be fine. And again, I keep coming back to it, but there’s various guys you can lean on in this squad.

“You know, it’s more of a group effort.”

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Murray Kinsella

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