Munster captains past and present last night warmly welcomed the news that Conor Murray has committed his future to the province until the summer of 2016.
Though he has been ruled out for six weeks after sustaining medial ligament damage to his right knee against Perpignan last Sunday, Murray tempered that bad news yesterday when he ended months of speculation about his future by signing a new, two-year contract with the IRFU which will keep him at Munster after his current deal expires next summer.
The 24-year-old had been linked with a big-money move to a Top 14 club, cashing in on a growing reputation as one of the best scrum-halves in the world by following Ireland and British & Irish Lions half-back partner Johnny Sexton to France.
But his decision to stay in Ireland until beyond the next World Cup in September 2015 is a major boost for Munster and Irish rugby and was greeted accordingly by his club captain Peter O’Mahony.
“Thrilled to bits, really,” O’Mahony said of his teammate’s new deal.
“He’s obviously a very close friend of mine so it’s going to be great to have him around for two more years.
“He’s (been) a hugely important part of our team over the last few years, now he’s a Lion and an established international so he’s a hugely important part of the cog of Munster so it’s great to have him sign on again.”
O’Mahony agreed Munster could build a team around Murray now that he was committed to their future along with a nucleus of exciting young players including himself and wing Simon Zebo.
“He’s that kind of a player. He’s one of the best scrum-halves in the world. It’s great to be playing alongside him and as I said, he’s a hugely important part of the team and I’m delighted that he’s staying at home.
“He’s a big driver of our team and he takes control of a couple of areas himself and he looks after them video-wise and that kind of thing. Knowledge-wise, he’s the man to go to about detail. He drives that side of things for us.
“From where he’s come from, he’s got a massive, massive amount of experience. He’s an established international player now and a Lion as well and that has done nothing but good for his confidence.”
Current Ireland captain and former Munster skipper Paul O’Connell also welcomed Murray’s new deal and spoke of the positive impact of a new generation of players committing their futures to the province.
“It’s great,” O’Connell said, “we lost a group of players over the last few years — some of them earlier than we would have hoped. I mean, (Jerry) Flannery, (Ian) Dowling, Barry Murphy would be three you might have been around a while longer but for various reasons, they aren’t.
“They were leaders in many ways, not just in how they played but in how they trained and how they lived their lives and prepared.
“That can affect a team when you lose guys like that, so to see these new guys coming through the way they prepare, how much it means to them to play for Munster, it’s a great thing to see.
“As an auld fella, to see young guys with that kind of passion and enthusiasm for playing with the province, it’s great they have all signed up and it shows a lot of what’s going on in Munster is very good and these guys really want to commit to it for the future.”
Speaking of the deal that will lift Munster as they prepare for the return Heineken Cup pool game with Perpignan at Stade Aimé Giral on Saturday, Murray said: “I am thrilled to sign a new IRFU contract and to continue playing my rugby with Munster.
“In 2013 I learned a lot as a player with my club, Ireland and the Lions and I hope to continue to develop and push for honours over the coming years.”
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