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Van Graan hails 'world class' Murray ahead of scrum-half's third Lions tour

The Munster boss also confirmed the province won’t be looking to make any more additions to their squad.

Munster scrum-half Conor Murray.
Munster scrum-half Conor Murray.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

JOHANN VAN GRAAN has praised Conor Murray’s work ethic after the Munster and Ireland scrum-half was named to take part in his third British and Irish Lions tour.

Murray, 32, has overcome one of the most challenging periods of his career to emerge as the likely starting scrum-half on this summer’s tour to South Africa.

The scrum-half was touted by some as the premier player in his position before a neck injury derailed his progress in 2018, with his form suffering across fractured campaigns in 2019 and 2020.

However Murray has put some spark back in his game this season, enjoying a good Six Nations and delivering some impressive performances with Munster.

As a result, he was nailed on to be included in Warren Gatland’s 37-man squad, announced last Thursday.

“Conor is up there with the very best, you’ve just got to look at his record,” Van Graan said.

“Going on a third tour, he’s consistent, his kicking is well documented, he’s a phenomenal kicker. I think the things that people don’t see are in his defence. The hits that he makes, he gets himself in poaching positions. 

“He’s a very silent guy. He just gets on with his business, he’s one of the guys in the team who never says too much but turns up every single week. The performance on the weekend against Ulster I thought was class.” 

Van Graan added that he has been struck by Murray’s constant desire to better himself as a player.

“He’s looking to improve every single season. I think that’s the sign of a true world class player,” he said.

You get a lot of players that kind of go through a season and get selected for their national team and play one, two or three Test matches and then they kind of go off the boil. To play consistently at a world class level, for whatever it is now, 10 or 11 seasons, that is the sign of a class player. 

“In terms of the guys I have been lucky enough to coach, Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger, in Irish terms you look at Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Keith Earls, they are all world class players and Conor falls into that category. 

“Lockdown has been big for him, he said that publicly. He refocused his goals and he’s now as good as he’s ever been. I can’t speak highly enough of Conor.” 

Van Graan also confirmed that the province won’t be looking to make any more additions to their squad ahead of the 2021/22 season.

The province recently added Simon Zebo’s name back to their books, with South African lock Jason Jenkins also set to join on a one-year deal and Rowan Osborne due to arrive from Leinster.

Munster will balance the books with the exits of Darren Sweetnam, JJ Hanrahan and Nick McCarthy, while Billy Holland, CJ Stander and Tommy O’Donnell are all set to retire. And Van Graan says he now feels his squad has a settled look for next season.

“We are good with what we have now. We have Rowan, Zeebs and Jason coming in, I think it’s nine Academy guys are going up to the senior side, which is phenomenal. So, I am really happy with our senior squad,” Van Graan said.

johann-van-graan Van Graan during a Munster training session yesterday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Obviously we will still add some guys, in conjunction with the IRFU, to our Academy. A lot of those guys haven’t played for a very long time, so that is very important to us.

“It’s still a long time to go until next year but we are already looking forward to that.

“Some pretty big players are going to leave Munster and I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone keeps going, because we have got a phenomenal squad in terms of the quality of men we have got in this team.

“There are some big men finishing up on 21 June, or whatever the date we finish. Then we will go on our off-season and we will restart again.

“Looking forward to next season, but we are in such a good place at the moment, just enjoying the performances that we are currently delivering.”

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Munster yesterday confirmed that RG Snyman was back on the road to recovery following the latest setback in his fight for fitness.

Snyman, who had been rehabbing a long-term ACL injury, had to undergo a minor procedure on a knee issue, with no timeframe placed on his return to action.

It means the South African lock could play for the Springboks this summer before lining out again for Munster.

The province took extreme caution in getting Joey Carbery back on the pitch following his own injury struggles, but Van Graan says they don’t have any concerns Snyman’s recovery won’t be managed properly, explaining that Munster and South Africa have been in regular contact.

“Joey had a very unique injury and RG is an ACL obviously, with some one or two other things that the surgeon fixed last week,” Van Graan explained.

“In terms of him coming back too soon, I think ourselves and the Springboks are very well aligned. We will always put the player first.

“Look, at the end of the day, RG’s knee is the most important thing. Then we have to make sure on both sides of the fence that he is fit for rugby. But to be fair to Jacques (Nienaber), the two of us have been in constant communication, not only about RG, but obviously Damian (de Allende) is in the Springboks’ plans as well.

“I am not really concerned. I think open communication, we have got that with the Irish national team and with South Africa as well.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

 

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Ciarán Kennedy

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