Munster and Ireland rugby superstar Conor Murray has slammed the “crazy” and inaccurate rumours he failed a drugs test and missed the start of the season because he was quietly serving a ban.
Murray, who signed a three-year contract extension worth an estimated €2m during his lay-off, making him one of the country’s best paid players, said the rumours circulating while he was actually out with a neck injury not only affected him but also his family.
“The toughest part of this was the outside rumours that my friends and family would hear. Crazy stuff that I’d failed all sorts of drugs tests and they were just keeping it under wraps and letting me serve my ban. That kind of hurt a little bit,” he said.
In a break from Munster’s preparations for tonight’s Champions Cup match against Gloucester, the 29-year-old, regarded as one of the best scrum-halfs in the world, gave a motivational talk to members of the Defence Forces based in Limerick yesterday.
When asked how he deals with the pressure of being in the public eye, he referenced the prolonged lay-off during which he decided not to disclose details of the injury, as he was entitled to do under GDPR, leaving the media with “nothing to feed off”.
“It’s not nice hearing it for yourself, but then your family don’t really know either. They are seeing second-hand information. It’s quite tough.”
Murray said it was the support of his Munster teammates which kept him going during the darker moments — he missed not only a number of the province’s matches but also Ireland’s autumn internationals, including November’s historic first home victory against the All Blacks. He returned to action during Munster’s 32-7 win away to Zebre on November 25, having been out for almost five months.
“It was the unity of my team. Munster would hear the same rumours and on Monday morning, they’d be slagging me about it, and make light of it straight away. Having a good team around you and a good head space is really important. It helps me,” he added.
“You hear a lot of players saying they don’t read the media or look at Twitter, but you can’t avoid it. If you don’t see it on your phone, your friends will say it back to you and it will affect you somehow.”
During his time with the Defence Forces personnel, he answered questions about all aspects of his playing career, and his rugby style.
“My life and my preparation building up to big games in the weeks and months leading up to big tournaments is similar to ye training here, and likely to go overseas in future,” he was quoted in the Limerick Leader as saying.
He admitted it felt “kind of weird” for him to be giving advice to frontline military personnel, given their contrasting careers.
Meanwhile, there has been good news on the injury front for Munster with Chris Farrell cleared to play tonight after recovering from a knee injury suffered against Connacht last weekend.