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No extra pressure on fit-again Conor Murray despite Sexton's absence

The 25-year-old says he is ‘feeling good again’ and is ‘fit to play’ against Italy on Saturday.

FACING INTO A Six Nations clash without the instrumental Johnny Sexton was unsettling enough, never mind the thought of losing scrum-half Conor Murray to injury.

Conor Murray Murray says he's fully fit to play in Rome. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

While Ireland will have to wait another weekend to welcome the Racing playmaker back into the selection mix, the news this week on Munster’s Murray has been altogether positive.

Having suffered with swelling and bruising around a disk since neck trauma during his province’s Pro12 clash against Zebre on 10 January, Murray is pleased to report that all is well and he is ready to play against the Italians on Saturday.

I just overextended it and required a couple of weeks out,” said Murray at Carton House this afternoon. “It was probably a bit too soon for those two European games with Munster [against Saracens and Sale in January].

“I was probably a little bit touch and go, maybe could have got back, but speaking to the specialists and doctors, they probably advised against. So I’ve rehabbed it well, did a bit of contact on Friday in the Aviva, and did a bit more yesterday.

“I came through really well and I’m feeling good again. I’m fit to play.”

Murray sustained the injury in the act of scoring a try against Zebre, but points out that this is the first time he’s had an issue with his neck. The 25-year-old will face another intense physical test against an Italian side on his return, with Sergio Parisse’s men sure to deliver on the first weekend of the Six Nations.

Conor Murray Murray moves the ball away at the Aviva on Friday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There will be no trepidation from Murray upon entering contact.

“God no. I’ve done my contact, I’ve done my bag work, I’ve tackled a few of the lads and I feel good. I’ve gotten through that first contact fear, if you want to call it that.”

Murray is almost certain to start in the nine shirt for Ireland’s visit to Rome, forming a halfback partnership with one of Ian Keatley and Ian Madigan.

Given that he will be the senior part of that duo, regardless of which Ian gets the nod from Joe Schmidt, does Murray feel any additional playmaking responsibility? Will there be more demand on the scrum-half to call the shots?

“Not more than usually, I don’t think,” answered Murray. “Other people might say there is, but I don’t see that. It’s came up with Munster before as well, that there might be a bit more pressure on me, but I just try to play my own game and play well.

“If I play well, then hopefully all that stuff ye talk about, pressure and responsibility, kind of looks after itself. The two Ians that might be going for the 10 spot this weekend, they’ve been in and out of the team in training.

Ian Costello, Brian Walsh and Anthony Foley with Conor Murray Murray [right] had to sit out Munster's last two European games of the season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“They’ve been getting their reps in and doing really well and I’ve no issue with whoever gets picked.”

Madigan and Keatley have been painted as having very different styles of play in some quarters, but Murray doesn’t see that as having any effect on how he approaches the Italy clash.

In Schmidt’s world, every individual is a moving cog in the machine. Perform your own duties accurately and the wheels will roll on forward.

We all have our roles within the team, we all understand how Joe wants us to play the game and I don’t think it’s going to affect any of us, even the lads coming in,” explained Murray.

“I don’t think anyone has to change the way they play or change the type of player they are. They can still express themselves, it’s just we have to have a good understanding of the game plan and how we want to approach this Italy game.”

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Murray Kinsella

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