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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018
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Steve Hansen expects Conor Murray to play against the All Blacks

The New Zealand boss said the Munster man is ‘a real competitor’.

ALL BLACKS HEAD coach Steve Hansen says he expects Conor Murray to play for Ireland against the Kiwis next weekend in Dublin.

The scrum-half last played in June on Ireland’s tour of Australia and has been managing a neck injury since.

Conor Murray celebrates after the game Murray is in the frame to feature against the All Blacks. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Murray not named in Ireland’s November Tests squad, Luke McGrath started Ireland’s win over Italy in Chicago two weekends ago, while Kieran Marmion was in the nine shirt yesterday versus Argentina.

But Ireland boss Joe Schmidt yesterday refused to rule Murray out of a sensational return against the All Blacks, saying it will be the player’s call, even while admitting it was “highly unlikely.”

After arriving in Dublin this evening following his side’s win over England in Twickenham yesterday, All Blacks boss Hansen said he believes Murray will feature for Ireland.

Asked about Joe Schmidt’s side, Hansen focused in on the scrum-half unprompted.

“I’m assuming Conor Murray will play, so they’ve got a good spine,” said Hansen after mentioning Ireland’s tactical smarts and aerial ability.

“He and Sexton are two of the best players in the world so they’ll drive them around the park.

“Big players get up, and if they think they’re right to play, then let them play. They’re competitors and Conor Murray is a real competitor, so if he says he’s right to play, he’ll be right to play.”

Steve Hansen Hansen's side beat England in London yesterday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Hansen denied he had any inside information but insisted he is convinced Murray will play next Saturday.

“I believe Murray will play,” said Hansen.  “I just think he’ll play.

“I’m not saying that to stir any trouble, I just think he’s a real competitor, he’ll want to play and if he’s got a chance, I reckon he will play.

“If that’s one of our guys in the same boat, they’d be putting their hand up to play.”

Murray was a try-scorer for Ireland in their historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016, although Hansen said his effectiveness that day was more down to his forward pack.

“I don’t know that he did the damage,” said Hansen. “I think the guys up front did the damage and that allows players like him and Sexton to be able to run the shop. It’s the same with the loose forwards, they come into the game because your tight five control the game.

“That hasn’t changed over time. When your tight five dominate, then your loose forwards dominate and your halves dominate. The difference is he’s a pretty handy player so if he gets that chance, he’s going to dominate.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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