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Does Conor Murray make sense as a Lions captain?

Warren Gatland has made a strangely logical choice in appointing Conor Murray as the new British ...


Does Conor Murray make sense as a Lions captain?

Warren Gatland has made a strangely logical choice in appointing Conor Murray as the new British and Irish Lions captain, according to Irish Times journalist Gavin Cummiskey.

Alun Wyn Jones was ruled out of the Lions tour of South Africa after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the early stages of the Lions’ warm-up game against Japan on Saturday.

In what was a surprising move for many, Munster and Ireland scrum half Conor Murray was appointed as the new captain for the tour, with Adam Beard being called up in place of the Welsh captain.

While many would have been taken aback by the decision, especially as Murray has not captained Ireland before, Cummiskey believes that the 32-year-old Limerick man will take the role in his stride.

Speaking on The Sunday Paper Review, Cummiskey explained the type of character that Murray is from a leadership perspective.

“Conor Murray is a cool as they come,” Cummiskey said. “He has gotten so much stick from the Irish media over the years for not being the guy who performed in Chicago.

“I don’t think he cares, and I don’t think he ever really did; I don’t think it got to him, so media is not going to be an issue with him.

“He does it really coolly, he is very quotable, so he will put out a straight bat message but sometimes with a bit of interesting stuff; you can ask him anything.”

Although he has not captained his national side before, Cummiskey argued that Murray will be used to conversing with test referees, and as such will be a good communicator on the pitch.

“I would venture that Conor Murray has spoken to referees more times than any Ireland captain he has ever played with in games,” Cummiskey said.

“He is constantly [talking to them], and he is a very good communicator. He doesn’t in the ref’s face, he doesn’t get exacerbated; it will be straight, monotone.

“He is also in charge of tactics, whatever team he plays on, especially Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team.

“He will have control of that now, but I imagine he already did.”

‘Biggar won’t win a test series’

Although Gatland has proven in the past that he is not afraid to leave his tour captain out of his test squad, the captaincy will likely see Murray as the nailed-on starter at nine against South Africa.

While one half of the outhalves appears to be sorted, Cummiskey believes that starting flyhalf will change from what we saw against Japan.

“If they pick [Dan] Biggar, they won’t win the test series,” Cummiskey said. “I think they’d need to pick Owen Farrell, because he’ll kick his goals, and defensively [he is better].

“Biggar is a better footballer, but I would love to see a Farrell-Bundee Aki-Robbie Henshaw midfield.

“That is as good as it will get. But again, Biggar is playing well, he has been playing well for a year, but it is not guaranteed.”

Murray Lions Captain

‘No better man’ than Murray

For Cummiskey, the biggest thing that Gatland would have been thinking around his new captain choice would be how to get players and media way from talking about the injured Jones.

“He thinks with winning eyes,” Cummiskey said.  “He always thinks, ‘what is the most practical thing now? How do we get on this plane without everyone staring at their shoelaces?’

“Everyone likes Conor Murray, he is one of the leadership group, let’s do that. He is just using logic so that he can move on really quickly.

“It is, ‘how do I get everyone to stop talking about Alun Wyn Jones as quickly as I can?’ Murray is the perfect thing for the British media to get into, because some of them will be upset.

“Eventually, at some point in the tour, the captain will come under scrutiny, and it will be Murray at the top of a table and everyone slinging rocks at him. You have no better man then, to handle that sort of stuff.”

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Alun Wyn Jones British And Irish Lions Conor Murray Gavin Cummiskey Lions Lions Tour South Africa Springboks