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Murray replies to captain guaranteed Lions Test shirt speculation

By Liam Heagney

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Conor Murray has refuted the suggestion that becoming Lions captain in place of the injured Alun Wyn Jones must mean he is set to start the Test games versus the Springboks next month. The Irish scrum-half was appointed skipper on Saturday evening in Edinburgh after it emerged that Jones was ruled out of the tour with a dislocated shoulder. 

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However, he has played down the claim that he must now be guaranteed to continue wearing the No9 Test series jersey that was his for the entire three-match series versus the All Blacks in 2017 after making two appearances in 2013 against the Wallabies as back up to Mike Phillips and Ben Youngs.  

The conversation surrounding Murray in his native Ireland in recent times is enough of a warning for him not to take anything for granted. There was a clamour heading into the 2020 Six Nations for John Cooney to be the starting No9 and Murray has since seen that jersey worn by Jamison Gibson-Park before he bounced back to finish the 2021 Six Nations with a debate-ending flourish.

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Conor Murray’s first interview in South Africa as new Lions captain
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Conor Murray’s first interview in South Africa as new Lions captain

That speculation over the past year about his form, though, left Murray uneasy about his chances of making the Lions squad before it was announced on May 6 and despite now arriving in South Africa as the tour captain following the injury to Jones, he is mindful that the captaincy doesn’t shield him from the competition at No9 from Scotland’s Ali Price and Wales’ Gareth Davies. 

“It doesn’t mean for a minute (that I make the Test team), that is completely separate,” insisted Murray amid the build-up to Thursday’s team announcement for Saturday’s first game on South African soil versus the Emirates Lions, a match where Price or Davies will likely start as Murray wore the No9 versus Japan at Murrayfield last Saturday.  

“We have seen it before on Lions tours where captains haven’t started and that is why I feel really strongly that I have got to remain myself and keep doing what I am doing because that is the aim, to be in contention for the team day squad and play in the Test matches. That is what makes this whole tour so special. Having been on tours before, playing the Tests is what it is all about and that is what everyone is trying to do. Not for a second do I think that is a given now. If anything, you have to really make sure you are on top of your game and you’re are playing as good as you can possible play.”

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Asked about the rapport he has struck with Price and Davies, Murray continued: “It has been brilliant so far. I have played against Ali a good few times and I know Gareth from the last tour, he came out, and there is a huge respect between the three of us. 

“We have been really open with each other in terms of calls we use with our clubs and countries, we have been open enough to share them. That is really important, and staying behind doing a few extras with each other. We are all gunning to play in the big games but we are all trying to make each other better and pushing each other along and that is going to be good for the squad. 

“You can see that in the others groups, out-halves, centres, everyone has bought into this and everyone understands that we need to help each other as much as we can. We don’t want to be holding things back that can help the squad moving forward. It has been great so far. I’m sure once we get closer to the big games it will heat up but that is definitely what you want. You don’t want it to laidback around each other. We are all here trying to get a jersey.”

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Murray replies to captain guaranteed Lions Test shirt speculation

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