Billy Stickland/INPHO
Pros and Cons
'Head-turning' French offers not easily shrugged off, says Conor Murray
Conor Murray is locked into his IRFU contract through the next World Cup, but he admits there is a big decision to made in his 30s.

ALMOST A WEEK on from being told the news that one of his best friends was leaving for pastures new, Conor Murray has come to terms and is able to freely joke and discuss it.

And with over two years left on his central IRFU contract, the scrum-half has plenty of shield to allow him chat about his own potential future options just as freely.

Simon Zebo and Conor Murray celebrate winning Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

There is no danger of Murray following Simon Zebo to France before the 2019 World Cup, but that’s just the foreseeable future. The scrum-half admits there will be a big decision to be made and many pros and cons to be weighed when he approaches his 30s.

“I’m not always thinking about it. But you are definitely aware of the draw towards something like that,” Murray says of the lucrative contracts on offer in the Top14.

“It’s an interesting and nice option to be able to go and play in a country like that, whether you go down to the south of France or to the UK. Those options are there and they are good things.”

Departures to France need not be permanent, of course, they could be mere sojourns in the middle of a career in the mould of Johnny Sexton or Dan Carter (at Perpignan). Players can return to their native land richer in experience… as well as just plain richer.

Conor Murray and Simon Zebo Dan Sheridan / INPHO Zebo and Murray in Ireland camp in 2012 Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

While not expecting many to match the longevity of Donncha O’Callaghan, Murray can envisage a scenario where Zebo returns to Munster. Still, he has his tongue wedged firmly in his cheek when suggesting the fullback could balloon to the weight of Nemani Nadolo and come home as a boshing centre.

“With him is it a bit of a risk, yeah, with the baguettes and the croissants,” Murray jokes, but the serious underlying point of the serious cash on offer remains.

Dan Carter was a fitting man to sign the first contract worth over  €1 million per year, while Charles Piutau will receive seven figures in Sterling when he moves to Bristol next season. Indeed Pat Lam’s employers are proof of the cash that exists outside of the Top14 as Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad recently boasted that the west England club had offered Aaron Cruden more than the French outfit, yet the All Black chose the lower €800,000 offer to play in the Top14 rather than the Championship.

“They (IRFU) can’t compete with it. Definitely they can’t the way it is in France and England as well.

“A few New Zealand lads have done it before, they have taken time off and come over to Europe and earned their money. If that’s what the players want then the IRFU can see their point of view. I don’t see why it wouldn’t happen. People talk about it all the time and now Simon has gone and done it.

Conor Murray Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ireland and Munster scrum-half Conor Murray today launched “Who We Are is How We Play”, the next phase of Vodafone Ireland’s “Team Of Us” sponsorship of the Irish rugby team. This season Vodafone will give fans a rare glimpse into the childhoods of Conor Murray, Rory Best, Tiernan O’Halloran and Tadhg Furlong in their new campaign which will be live from November 1st. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s all down to the player I think. It’s not really down to the IRFU if someone wants to go and earn that extra bit of money then you’re back to the risk of you losing your international place in the squad. That’s a massive thing to consider losing.

“So it’s down to the player, the time in their career, what they want to do, what their family wants to do. It remains to be seen now that Zeebs has gone and done it as one of the younger guys to do it…we’ll  see, we’ll see what happens. Definitely it’s going to turn heads.”

Yesterday’s squad announcement has signalled that Zebo’s time in an Ireland jersey is already up, but wearing the 15 jersey away to Connacht today will be the first of many opportunities to make his dwindling time in red count. A trophy would be fitting way to sign off for such a glittering talent.

“Definitely, we’ve been lucky we won a couple of Six Nations with Ireland, they were great days, and we had a lot of great days with Munster in the Heineken and Champions Cup group stages, and quarter finals.

“It’s definitely upped my motivation not that it needed much upping. It would be incredible. He’s got lots of best friends though, Peter O’Mahony played with him at Cork Con since he was five or six, so it’d be amazing to win something with him, it’d be emotional as well.”

Connacht v Munster, kick-off 19.35, TG4



15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Darragh Leader
13. Bundee Aki
12. Tom Farrell
11. Cian Kelleher
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. James Cannon
6. Eoin McKeon
7. Jarrad Butler
8. John Muldoon (Capt)

16. Dave Heffernan
17. Denis Coulson
18. Conor Carey
19. Quinn Roux
20. Eoghan Masterson
21. Caolin Blade
22. Craig Ronaldson
23. Niyi Adeolokun


15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Conway
13. Chris Farrell
12. Rory Scannell
11. Keith Earls
10. Ian Keatley
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rhys Marshall
3. John Ryan
4. Mark Flanagan
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. CJ Stander.


16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. Liam O’Connor
18. Stephen Archer
19. Sean McCarthy
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Duncan Williams
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Darren Sweetnam

Subscribe to The42 podcasts here:

Schmidt’s statement, Bundee’s inclusion and more Ireland squad talking points

Conor Murray: Zebo knew the risks of leaving Ireland, but as a mate I’d like him in Ireland team

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel