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Conor Murray Names The Main Front-Runners For The Lions 9 Jersey

Conor Murray Lions

It was announced on Wednesday morning that the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour is going ahead as planned. So, supporters and rugby fans alike can now look forward to what should be a memorable tour. 

The new season is set to begin in the coming months, meaning we will undoubtedly see relentless debate and discussion on who should secure a seat on the plane to South Africa.

One of the more interesting selections Warren Gatland will have to make is which scrum-halves he will bring to face the world champions.

Conor Murray was arguably at his world best peak in 2017, when he started every Test against the All Blacks and also scored that crucial try in the second clash with New Zealand.

However, the Ireland scrum half’s form has dipped since then as the Limerick man recovered from a neck injury.

Although he has shown glimpses of that form returning before lockdown brought a halt to the global rugby season, his incumbent status will no doubt be under threat.

Conor Murray Lions

Murray was asked by Brian O’Driscoll on BT Sport’s Lions Call series who he sees as providing the strongest competition for that nine jersey. Naturally, England scrum-half Ben Youngs is included in that list alongside a trio of Welsh half-back talent.

“I’m not being political in trying to just give you one name but I think the Welsh lads – Tomos Williams,” Murray said.

“Gareth Davies has been incredible over the last few seasons. He’s going to be up there. With Webby [Rhys Webb] coming back to play in Wales, that signals that he’s probably eyeing up this and definitely going to give it a right rattle.

Conor Murray Lions
Gareth Davies

“And then you have Ben Youngs who I think is one cap short of 100 and he had an unbelievable World Cup. There are threats everywhere. I found when I was thinking about competition you can get sucked into the Sky or TV coverage of Lions tours.

“They pick their Lions squad after each week and I found that so exhausting because sometimes you’d be in it, sometimes you wouldn’t be near it. It’s 12 months out and people talk about it, I just find it…I just leave it alone.

Conor Murray Lions
Ben Youngs

“There’s going to be massive competition. The scrum-halves, they’re all different, they’re all really good. But for what worked for me in 2017 was just to focus on me. But it’s going to be a hotbed of competition.

“If I started watching those Lions selections 12 months out, I wouldn’t have the energy to play, I’d just find it so distracting. That’s really for the fans to have a bit of fun with before it’s selected.”

If Murray is selected to go to South Africa next year, that will be his third Lions tour and he could also have the opportunity of playing in three tours and never losing a series. The 31-year-old admits that this will naturally play on his mind.

Conor Murray Lions

“It’s definitely going to be in my mind and hopefully in my plans but I think, this break has definitely reinvigorated me, re-energised me in terms of wanting to go back and play my best because probably, I faded away from that for the last while for whatever reason.

“Sometimes it’s really hard to put your finger on, sometimes it’s a part of the way it’s going, the way the team is going. So looking back at games where I have gone well, what I’ve done over the last few years has kind of re-energised me and I can’t wait to get cracked into the season.”

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email or on Twitter