Munster and British and Irish Lions fans can breathe a sigh of relief today with Conor Murray's declaration that he will play for the province before Warren Gatland’s tourists make for New Zealand next month, writes Brendan O’Brien.
The Irish scrum-half has not seen action since damaging nerves in his shoulder in the Six Nations encounter against Wales in March and Gatland had warned that the nine would need to return to play before boarding the plane for the summer’s big tour.
“I'd be very, very confident that I'll play rugby before we depart,” Murray explained today.
It’s still not fully clear as to when that might be. Munster face Connacht in Limerick in the last regular round of Guinness PRO12 games this weekend. Whatever about that, he described himself as “a good bet” to make the semi-final which is another fortnight down the line.
“I'm good, finally," Murray said at an event in Dublin to relaunch Maximuscle in Ireland. “I've been training with the lads for the last couple of weeks and trained Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
“I've been doing gradual return to play contact and yesterday did full contact, tackling people and taking proper hits, getting tackled myself and feeling pretty good. So hopefully I'll be playing really soon. Potentially I'll be involved this weekend, we'll wait and see how we go.
“It is and it was a day by day thing, you have to wait and see how you react the next day after you exercise and it's been really good. So I've got my strength back and it's a case of taking contact and not being worried about taking contact, which I haven't been for the last week or two.
“So pretty positive, yeah.”
The news puts to bed any fears that his season could be over.
“Initially we thought it would come back a lot sooner than it has and, with the uncertainty around the nerve injury, I was pretty worried because there's cups to play for and there's a big tour in the summer.
“So, yeah, there was worry there because with a nerve injury it's not like a muscle injury where you're told you'll be back in four weeks and you're back in four weeks. It's a little bit of an unknown.
“Nerves are sensitive. They can come back in a week or can take six or seven weeks, or they can take longer. Thankfully I'm at a stage where my strength is back and I'm taking contact, and I feel pretty good. I feel really good, and I feel ready to play.”