Hansen sug­gests Murray could yet face the All Blacks

‘Is Conor re­ally go­ing to be out or is it an Ir­ish trick? Or is it the truth?’

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Gavin Cum­miskey

Conor Murray could yet face New Zealand on Novem­ber 17th with both All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen and Ro­nan O’Gara sug­gest­ing that the Ire­land scrumhalf could make an un­ex­pected re­turn from his neck in­jury.

Murray is ex­pected to join the Ire­land camp in Car­ton House this week but he will not travel to Chicago with the 26-man squad that de­parts this morn­ing ahead of Satur­day’s match against Italy at Sol­dier Field.

“Well, I’m not sure about that, I don’t know,” said Hansen when asked about Murray’s likely ab­sence fol­low­ing New Zealand’s 37-20 vic­tory over Aus­tralia in Yoko­hama, the venue for next year’s World Cup fi­nal.

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

“Look, Conor’s a great player and it’s re­ally dis­ap­point­ing for both Ire­land and us that he’s not play­ing. When you play qual­ity teams you want all your play­ers to be there. They’ll miss him but what a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for some­body else to step up.”

Murray is well known to New Zealand due to out­stand­ing try scor­ing per­for­mances in two vic­to­ries over the All Blacks; Chicago in Novem­ber 2016 and the sec­ond Lions test in 2017.

The 29-year-old is slated to fea­ture for Mun­ster away to Ze­bre on Novem­ber 25th but Murray did state last week that this could be ac­cel­er­ated to in­clude game time dur­ing the Novem­ber in­ter­na­tional win­dow.

“Will Conor Murray be ready to face New Zealand on Novem­ber 17?” wrote O’Gara in The Ir­ish Ex­am­iner last week. “Con­trary to what he in­ti­mated this week, my gut in­stinct is that he will play. He’s been go­ing pretty much full on in train­ing and next week he will ramp that up fur­ther. If he’s ready, he will look to start.”

Fresh con­cerns

Ire­land coach Joe Sch­midt’s mini-US-tour­ing-party will be re­vealed to­day. Con­sid­er­ing Kieran Marmion’s 50 min­utes for Con­nacht in de­feat to the Ospreys on Fri­day night, John Cooney and Luke Mc­Grath ap­pear to be the scrumhalves for Chicago.

Murray’s pres­ence in Car­ton House gives him the op­por­tu­nity to turn the as­sump­tions of Hansen and O’Gara into re­al­ity. “Hope­fully in Novem­ber some time,” said Murray, when asked last week about his come­back. “We’ve a game in our head, but that could change or be brought for­ward or it could be pushed out a lit­tle bit more . . . Ideally, I’d love to play a game or two, come off the bench and then play Europe and kick-start the sea­son then.”

Murray’s last game was against Aus­tralia in June.

“Look, I’m train­ing pretty much fully with the squad for the last two weeks, do­ing con­trolled con­tact af­ter train­ing and tak­ing a few bangs that I prob­a­bly wasn’t ex­pect­ing in train­ing, which was great, and which I need. I’m get­ting there. I’m very, very close. Weeks away maybe.”

There are fresh con­cerns over Ire­land vet­er­ans, Rob Kear­ney and Peter O’Ma­hony, as both ap­peared to sus­tain shoul­der in­juries play­ing for Le­in­ster and Mun­ster on Satur­day. Nei­ther were ex­pected to face Italy, but both would have been due to start against Ar­gentina on Novem­ber 10th.

“He came into the chang­ing room with a bit of pain,” said Mun­ster coach Jo­hann van Graan of O’Ma­hony. “He’s had a big work­load on him. All credit to him he’s in the form of his life and he’s bril­liant fit­ness to come through these games. I don’t think it’s se­ri­ous.”

Late tackle

The Mun­ster flanker re­quired treat­ment af­ter his turnover se­cured the penalty that led to Rory Scan­nell kick­ing the win­ning goal. Un­capped cen­tre Sam Arnold was also forced off with con­cus­sion dur­ing the dra­matic 25-24 vic­tory at Thomond Park.

Speak­ing about a late tackle on O’Ma­hony by Glas­gow War­riors back­row Adam Ashe, van Graan added: “We’ll speak to the ref­eree man­ager about that one. It was off the ball af­ter he made the pass. It was a big off the ball hit on him there. He ac­tu­ally got up and made the fi­nal tackle there in the cor­ner.”

Of the 42-man panel Sch­midt named last week, 14 play­ers - An­drew Con­way, Jor­dan Lar­mour, Ja­cob Stock­dale, Garry Rin­grose, Joey Car­bery, Johnny Sex­ton, Cooney, Mc­Grath, Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Beirne, Devin Toner, Jack Co­nan and Josh van der Flier - played no rugby over the week­end.

All Blacks out­half Beau­den Bar­rett scored 17 points as New Zealand com­pleted a Bledis­loe Cup clean sweep with a 37-20 win over Aus­tralia at the venue for the 2019 World Cup fi­nal on Satur­day.

Flanker Liam Squire and cap­tain Kieran Read crossed be­fore the break to put the All Blacks in a com­mand­ing po­si­tion and the world cham­pi­ons piled on the points in the clos­ing stages when Aus­tralia were a man down.

Aus­tralia re­place­ment hooker Tolu Latu was sin­binned for strik­ing his New Zealand coun­ter­part Codie Tay­lor on 66 min­utes and tries from Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane com­pleted an em­phatic vic­tory.

“It was a good start [to the tour],” said New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, whose side face Ja­pan next week be­fore head­ing to Europe.

“Aus­tralia play dif­fer­ent to what we are go­ing to be play­ing in the next cou­ple of weeks but they are a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent and on their day can play very well. So it was im­por­tant we start the tour with a good per­for­mance and we did that tonight.”

New Zealand had won the first two Tests be­tween the trans-Tas­man Sea ri­vals in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship in Au­gust to be as­sured of re­tain­ing the Bledis­loe Cup for the 16th straight year.

Ex­ploded

The Wal­la­bies, with plenty to prove af­ter a poor sea­son, ex­ploded out of the blocks in front of 46,143 fans in Yoko­hama and al­most scored in the sec­ond minute only for full­back Dane Haylett-Petty’s ef­fort to be ruled out by the TMO.

Af­ter that, New Zealand took con­trol, dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory and open­ing the scor­ing on 11 min­utes when Squire broke through Kurt­ley Beale’s tackle.

Plagued by er­rors and penal­ties – Aus­tralia con­ceded 11 to New Zealand’s five – the Wal­la­bies al­lowed their op­po­nents too much turnover ball and, as usual, the All Blacks pun­ished them.

Af­ter penal­ties apiece for Beale and Bar­rett, num­ber eight Read peeled off the back of a scrum in the 36th minute and ran through Ned Hani­gan’s tackle to ex­tend New Zealand’s lead to 17-3.

The Wal­la­bies hit back just be­fore half-time, though, with winger Sefa Naivalu bar­relling clean through Bar­rett to score in the cor­ner.

Michael Cheika’s team re­ducved the gap to 17-13 at the start of the sec­omnd half. be­fore Bar­rett took con­trol of the con­test, slot­ting his sec­ond penalty be­fore link­ing up with Ioane to score the try of the match on the hour mark.

Al­ready up against it, Aus­tralia’s hopes of get­ting back into the con­test suf­fered a fa­tal blow when Latu was sin binned for a re­tal­ia­tory swipe at Tay­lor.

Fur­ther tries from Ben Smith and Ioane, his 11th of the year and 22nd in 21 Tests, ei­ther side of Is­rael Fo­lau’s con­so­la­tion score for the Aus­tralians wrapped up an­other com­pre­hen­sive win for Hansen’s men.

“Dev­as­tated? That’s a big word,” Wal­la­bies coach Cheika, said af­ter­wards. “I care a lot. I care about my team, the play­ers and about rugby in Aus­tralia.

“One thing that comes with care is fight and what­ever is nec­es­sary [to beat New Zealand] we will make sure we get it done be­fore we meet them again.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: RYAN BYRNE/INPHO

Conor Murray said last week that his re­turn to ac­tion could be ac­cel­er­ated.

Beau­den Bar­rett scored 17 points against New Zealand in Yoko­hama

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