By Brendan O'Brien
Conor Murray is set to miss Ireland's four November internationals – the highly-anticipated meeting with the All Blacks included – but aims to be fully fit in good time for Munster's back-to-back European meetings with Castres in December.
The British and Irish Lions scrum-half has not played since Ireland's successful summer tour to Australia because of a neck injury and he was not included in the Ireland squad named by Joe Schmidt on Wednesday afternoon.
It was a significant – if anticipated - blow for the national side as they go up against the world's top side and Argentina, Italy and the USA next month. But there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Limerick man who has already returned to the training paddock.
“Couple of weeks,” he said of a potential return date on Wednesday morning. “Obviously the squad is being named today and I haven't chatted to anyone. I've been over and back and they know where I am with the injury. So, I'd be surprised if I was named in the squad.
“I'd be lucky to be named in it because I haven't played and you need that, especially with the calibre of Argentina and the All Blacks in particular. You're going to have to be ready. So, hopefully in November sometime.
“We've a (return) game in our head, but that could change or be brought forward, or it could be pushed out a little bit more. In and around the end of November, start of December hopefully.
“Ideally I'd love to play a game or two, come off the bench and then play Europe and kick-start the season then. I'm not withholding anything: we don't know. We've an idea, but I've to pass a couple of strength tests, contact levels and go again.
“It's not like a hamstring, Grade 1, you'll be back next week or two weeks...”
Speculation over Murray's fitness has been rampant for months given the player's preference that detailed information be withheld regarding the nature and the extent of his injury.
Jamie Heaslip, the former Leinster and Ireland forward, took the same approach over the long-term back injury, suffered prior to a Six Nations game against England at the Aviva Stadium in 2017 and which eventually forced his retirement.
Heaslip cited the right to privacy over his medical data at the time but Murray denied that that had anything to do with his own silence this last number of months.
“So that's why we said it. I think it was a week later we said that it was my neck injury and that was it. By the time we had said that it had snowballed and people had started rumours and stuff.
“Look, I'm training pretty much fully with the squad for the last two-ish weeks, doing controlled contact after training and taking a few bangs that I probably wasn't expecting and which was great, which I need. I'm getting there. I'm very, very close, Weeks away maybe?
“That's what every player wants to know, when is he back? 'Can the physio tell me?' But with the type of injury it was with my neck it was literally 'see how you are Monday, see what you can do in the gym, on the pitch and we will keep on progressing'.
“Thankfully it has been pretty smooth. It has been progressing, progressing, progressing and there hasn't been any real hiccups: touch wood. Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be able to lace up and get out there.”
- PINERGY today announced that it has teamed up with Munster scrum-half, Conor Murray, for the 2018/2019 season, as part of its innovative #WeAre16 campaign. PINERGY the official energy partner to Munster Rugby will continue its Fan of the Match competition and introduce the new PINERGY POWER PLAYER for the second year of the #WeAre16 campaign.