Ireland not ruling Conor Murray out of sensational return to face the All Blacks

The Munster scrum-half has been in Ireland camp at Carton House this week.

Murray Kinsella reports from Chicago

IRELAND HAVE REFUSED to rule Conor Murray out of making a return to face the All Blacks in Dublin on 17 November.

The scrum-half has yet to play this season as he has managed a neck issue but is now close to making a return to action.

Murray has been training with a group of senior Ireland players under Joe Schmidt in recent days and could come back into the picture ahead of the clash with the number-one-ranked All Blacks in Dublin.

Conor Murray celebrates Robbie Henshaw's try Murray celebrates Robbie Henshaw's try against the All Blacks in 2016. Source: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Speaking last weekend, New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said he wasn’t sure that Murray would be missing for his team’s meeting with Ireland after the Munster halfback was omitted from Joe Schmidt’s 42-man squad for the November Tests.

“Is Conor really going to be out or is it an Irish trick? Or is it the truth?” said Hansen.

And speaking in Chicago on Tuesday ahead of Ireland’s clash with Italy at Soldier Field this weekend, Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby stated that Murray is not out of the frame.

“No, he hasn’t been ruled out,” said Easterby.

“A little bit like some of the others, he’s been on a longer-term injury list but he’s in camp this week. He’s been in Carton House and we’ll probably assess him as we go through the series.”

Easterby did concede that Ireland’s clash with Argentina on 10 November in Dublin may come too soon for Murray but again refused to completely rule him out.

“Yeah, I’d say more than likely [Argentina will be too soon] but without being there in Dublin now and knowing what he’s going through and what he’s reacting like, we’ll obviously make that call and we’ll get some information on him and his status probably later in the week with a view to preparing for next week.”

Whether or not Murray does actually make his return to feature against the All Blacks, Easterby’s words are sure to provide plenty of food for thought for Hansen and his coaching staff ahead of that highly-anticipated meeting at the Aviva Stadium.

Conor Murray celebrates winning Murray after Ireland's historic win in Chicago in 2016. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

More immediately, Ireland are hopeful of having fullback Rob Kearney available for the clash with Argentina in two weekends’ time after he suffered a shoulder injury while playing for Leinster last weekend.

Similarly, Peter O’Mahony picked up a shoulder issue in helping Munster to beat Glasgow in Limerick last weekend but should feature for Ireland at some point in the coming month.

“A little bit like Rob, Peter is fortunate that he’s able to get treatment back in Dublin and he will be assessed as the week goes on,” said Easterby.

“A lot will ride on how he comes through the next three or four days building up to Sunday, when we make some calls on players, based on this game [against Italy] but also on the guys that stayed behind.”

– First published 01.00, 31 October

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