What injured Jones said to new skipper Murray before the Lions flew to South Africa
New Lions skipper Conor Murray has revealed he had a few minutes chatting to injured captain Alun Wyn Jones before they went their separate ways on Sunday, Murray leading the Lions squad for their flight from Edinburgh to Johannesburg that night and Jones getting left behind nursing his dislocated shoulder and making plans to get it fixed and get home to Wales.
Veteran Jones had led the Lions into battle in their eve-of-tour-departure match at Murrayfield but he was injured at a ruck just seven minutes into the win over Japan and was officially ruled out of the tour to South Africa not long after the final whistle. That left coach Warren Gatland in need of a replacement captain and he turned to Irish scrum-half Murray, who was part of the Lions squads that toured Australia and New Zealand in 2013 and 2017.
Murray would have been viewed as a surprise choice as replacement skipper given that it isn’t a role he does with Ireland or Munster and the Lions also had plenty of alternatives, but he quickly snapped up the Saturday evening invitation from Gatland and was further boosted by what Jones said to him when they caught up on Sunday morning at the team hotel in Scotland.
“A lot was going on with Al on Saturday evening but on Sunday morning I caught up with him for a couple of minutes and he said, ‘Just be yourself, mate, you have been doing it all along over the past two tours, just continue that’.
“He gave me a pat on the shoulder and said he has full faith in me. He is another guy who said he is available at the end of a phone if anything crops up and his words are really important for me. He was brilliant for the first two weeks in setting the tone for training. Just by his actions in training, he was beating everyone in the next drill and he was just being himself and the way he has led for years and years.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 29, 2021
Murray added how the Lions players handled being around Jones while he was still with them following his injury, explaining they were conscious of giving him space but also being all ears whenever he felt inclined to talk. “That was definitely something that happened on Saturday evening. “The Welsh lads, in particular, know Al a lot better than us and it would be the same if something like that (injury) happened to me, you’d probably want your own space for a while and if you want to talk you will come over. Al was really good. He got up and presented the lads with their first caps and put on a really brave face on Saturday evening which was really admirable given he has just gotten some bad news.
“It was a bit of a mix. You could see from his point of view he might not want to chat too much. No one was trying to make him feel better. It is what it is. It was a really unfortunate thing that happened. If it was me you’d deal with it in your own head over time, so lads were really respectful of him but he was around the team room, he was chatting, he was enjoying the win and people getting off the mark with the Lions. It was a bit of both. You had to read the situation.”
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— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 28, 2021
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