Wallabies great George Gregan has weighed in on the debate over who is the best halfback in the world, Aaron Smith or Conor Murray.
“They are both incredible players that play different styles of rugby, and that has a lot to do with how their teams operate”, he told RugbyPass.
“Conor Murray kicks a lot more than Aaron Smith, but Smith does have a very good box kick. Murray will play that more traditional nine role where there is a bit of box kicking, works with his forwards.
“He’s got a very good running game, distributes very well, and he’s got a good relationship with Johnny Sexton which I think all good halves pairs do.
Gregan heaped praised on what Smith’s passing game does for the players around him.
“I think Aaron Smith’s got a fantastic relationship with Beauden Barrett at All Black level, so it’s two world-class 9-10’s. I think Smith’s passing game is the standard, he really does get it off the ground quickly. The width of his pass really does allow players like Barrett and prior to that, Dan Carter, to really thrive with their passing and running game.
“That’s just how the All Blacks play, they try to play that high, up-tempo game where the ball is always a moving target whereas Ireland will play a bit more structure, use their running forwards, there is a shorter passing game off Conor Murray but he also can throw the wider pass when Sexton needs it.
“I think Murray really takes the pressure of kicking away from the 10, he kicks directly from the source quite a lot. He would be the gold standard in terms of managing a game through territory through his right boot.
When trying to compare the two, he said it’s like splitting hairs but gave the edge to Murray for last year’s Lions tour.
“It’s a split hair and it has a lot to do with the quality of ball their front eight provide for them.
“Conor Murray in that Lions series last year was outstanding.
“In that series, if you want to compare players, I thought he was the best halfback. He was one of the best players in that series full stop.
“The Aussie in me says Will Genia is getting back to his best form, he’d be number three. They all bring their own individual strengths to it.
“Ireland is in very good hands with Conor Murray and so are the All Blacks with Aaron Smith, and there’s not a bad bloke behind him called TJ Perenara who you could also throw in the mix as well. So there are some very good, world-class halfbacks playing.
Former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll, gold medal-winning coach Ben Ryan & ex-Wallabies captain George Gregan spoke with RugbyPass ahead of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.