Murray could miss B&I Lions tour

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 12:33
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INJURY UPDATE: Ireland scumhalf Conor Murray's bid to secure his British and Irish Lions place suffered a setback Friday when he was ruled out of Munster's European Champions Cup semifinal against title-holders Saracens this weekend.

Murray was included Wednesday in a 41-man squad named by Lions coach Warren Gatland for a three-Test series away to world champions New Zealand in June and July.

But the 27-year-old has not played since suffering a nerve injury affecting his shoulder and neck area against Wales in the Six Nations on March 10.

Gatland made it clear after his squad was announced that Murray, who helped the Lions to a series win in Australia four years ago, would have to return before the end of the European season to secure his tour spot.

"It is a concern," Gatland said. "He's going to need to play before he gets on the plane. That's going to be important for us.

"I would be reluctant to take someone to New Zealand with a neck injury who hasn't played.

"It's causing him a bit of discomfort and a bit of weakness in his arm, and hopefully he’s going to be right in a couple of weeks - the neurologist is confident he's going to be OK,"

Duncan Williams, who has spent much of his time at Munster as a back-up scrumhalf to Peter Stringer, Tomas O'Leary and now Murray, will start in Saturday's semifinal at Dublin's Lansdowne Road.

Williams, 31, has had a chequered career but former Munster and Ireland flyhalf Ronan O'Gara backed him to come good against Saracens, the reigning English, as well as European, champions.

"I don't even think there's been that many huge changes to his game in recent times — he was always terrier-like, he had a good kicking game, had a good pass and was incredibly brave," O'Gara wrote in his Irish Examiner column published before Friday's team announcement.

"Untimely injuries piled on top of a dearth of confidence almost suffocated Duncan Williams at one stage. He hit absolute rock bottom.

"But thankfully he found a strength of mind that enabled him to train harder and when the break came, he was ready to put all his hurt into telling performances,"

But while Murray is out, Munster's other two Lions representatives - CJ Stander, back from an ankle injury and flank Peter O'Mahony, the province's captain, are fit.

London club Saracens, however, had the largest share of any team in Gatland's squad and all six of their Lions -  goalkicker Owen Farrell, back row Billy Vunipola, locks George Kruis and Maro Itoje, hooker Jamie George and prop Mako Vunipola - will start against Munster.

Duncan Taylor remains sidelined with a chest injury, so Argentina's Marcelo Bosch continues in midfield alongside Saracens captain and former England centre Brad Barritt.

Agence France-Presse

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