Steve Hansen is prepared to see Ireland star scrum-half Conor Murray take the field when the world’s top two teams play the weekend coming.
It is one of those prudent actions coaches have to take and Hansen knows that if Murray does come out, despite having not played any rugby this season, a Murray – Jonathan Sexton partnership represents a true threat to the All Blacks and they might not be quite as fortunate as they were against England, where the ABs were saved by TMO overturning and England try in the waning minutes of that game.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will meet with Murray to ascertain the latter’s fitness. Murray has only recently returned to training following a neck injury that prevented his playing this season and his fitness and form is questionable.
He has been a poison pill when he has taken the ground for Ireland.
There was that time in Chicago in 2016, when it marked something like the first time Ireland had beaten New Zealand in some incomprehensible span of time. Murray was also there for an Ireland win over the All Blacks in 2017.
“I’m assuming Conor Murray will play, they have a good spine,” said Hansen at a press conference at the team hotel on arriving in Dublin.“He and Sexton are two of the best players in the world, so they’ll drive them around the park good.”
Is there any crueler fate imaginable than plucking the Kiwis out of southern hemisphere summer and depositing them in Dublin in November?
Hansen expressed confidence that Sonny Bill Williams will be available, even though he went off in the screecher 16 -15 win over England.
Hansen’s strategy for dealing with Murray is to deprive Murray of the ball.
Ireland has been getting by with Luke McGrath and Kieran Marmion, but those two played Italy and Argentina, no disrespect to either, but neither is in the same class as New Zealand, although the Kiwis are showing indications that years of having everyone come after them are beginning to extract a toll.