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Munster confirm new scrum-half signing as Murray sidelined with neck injury

The Ireland international is set to miss the opening stages of the new season.

Updated Aug 27th 2018, 5:52 PM

MUNSTER’S CONOR MURRAY is set to miss the opening stages of the season as he manages a neck injury and the province have confirmed the signing of New Zealand scrum-half Alby Mathewson as cover.

It had been expected that Murray would feature for his province by round three or four of the new Pro14 campaign but The42 understands that Murray’s neck issue could even see him miss Munster’s first two Champions Cup games in October.

[image alt="Conor Murray dejected after the game" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2018/08/conor-murray-dejected-after-the-game-7-630x406.jpg" width="630" height="406" class="alignnone" /end]

It’s believed that Murray had been dealing with the neck issue at times last season and it now looks like he and his province will attempt to remedy the issue permanently. Whether or not Murray will require surgery is unclear.

With the Ireland international set to be sidelined, Munster have brought in Mathewson for four months to provide cover as their season gets underway. The 32-year-old Kiwi has made five appearances for the All Blacks and has played Super Rugby for the Hurricanes, Blues, and Western Force.

He played for Toulon on 19 occasions last season, including the Champions Cup quarter-final against Munster in Thomond Park. Alby’s previous visit to the Limerick venue saw him make his All Blacks debut in the thrilling 18-16 win against the province in November 2008.

Duncan Williams, James Hart and new signing Neil Cronin are the other scrum-half options in Munster’s senior squad, while academy player Jack Stafford has also gained exposure in recent months.

While Munster have those players to offer cover for Murray, the IRFU signed-off on the province bringing in an extra scrum-half in the form of Mathewson as they look to make a strong start to the season.

The absence of Murray would be a major blow for head coach Johann van Graan, particularly given how important the scrum-half is to everything Munster do on the pitch.

The southern province start their Pro14 season by hosting the Cheetahs on Saturday, while they will play Exeter Chiefs away and Gloucester at home in the pool stages of the Champions Cup in October.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt will be tracking Murray’s progress anxiously too, with the national team set to face Italy, Argentina, the All Blacks and the USA in the November Tests.

Murray is as vital to Ireland as he is to Munster and the hope is that the halfback will be fit and playing again ahead of that busy autumn Test series.

If Murray’s involvement in November is jeopardised by his neck issue, Kieran Marmion, John Cooney and Luke McGrath will be expected to compete for Ireland’s number nine shirt.

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Murray Kinsella

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