Murray vows to make the most of Lions captaincy experience

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Conor Murray

Conor Murray has vowed to relish and enjoy every experience after being named 2021 Tour captain of The British & Irish Lions, joining the most exclusive club in rugby.

The Ireland scrum-half was chosen by Warren Gatland to take over the role from Alun Wyn Jones after the Wales and Lions legend was ruled out of the Tour to South Africa.

Jones dislocated his shoulder in the opening minutes of the Lions’ 28-10 victory over Japan at BT Murrayfield, ending his hopes of a fourth consecutive Tour and his first as captain.

And having played alongside Jones on the last two Tours, Lion #790 Murray admitted he will have big shoes to fill as skipper after accepting what he described as an “unbelievable honour”.

“We’re very disappointed to lose Alun Wyn. He’s been brilliant for the first two weeks. I’ve known him from the past two Tours and he’s been incredible. It’s a huge loss,” said Murray.

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“Warren asked me just before the cap ceremony and it was surreal. I still don’t have my head around it, but it’s something that is an unbelievable honour.

Conor Murray

“It’s something that I never thought would be possible. What kind of puts me at ease is that we’ve such a good leadership group that it means I can continue being myself.

“There’ll be a little bit more responsibility, but I don’t think it should change anything around the camp. I think that’s one of the most important things – that I remain myself, and I assume that’s why Warren asked me to do it.”

Murray toured with the Lions in 2013 and 2017 while he also has 89 Ireland caps and when asked whether he hesitated about accepting, the 32-year-old’s answer was emphatic.

“I didn’t think about long,” he added. “I said, ‘absolutely, it’ll be it’ll be a massive honour thank you very much for this opportunity’. So, no. Then you kind of think about how big it is and then obviously my phone has gone a bit crazy since it was announced.

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“I’ve been lucky enough to be on a couple of Tours already, so it’s something that I’ve said to myself that I’m going to enjoy and take every moment and really, really enjoy the experience. It’s something that I’m going to relish and enjoy rather than feeling daunted by it.

“I know a lot of the lads here already, it’s a group that you can feed off. When it was announced I got a big round of applause and the boys were congratulating me. It feels really close.”

Murray is set to become just the 13th Irishman to captain the Lions in Test action when the tourists take on the Springboks in their first series against the world champions since 2009.

He will follow in the illustrious footsteps of Irish rugby icons such as Tom Crean, Ronnie Dawson, Willie John McBride, Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony.

And the 32-year-old hopes his previous Tour experience will serve him well in the role, having seen first hand what it takes to bring together the four homes nations into one team.

“I think you got to definitely understand how we’re trying to play, what we’re trying to do on the pitch, that’s the most important thing,” said Murray on the task ahead of him.

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“I think your messaging has to be well thought out, you know, I think, in my career I suppose when I do speak it’s thought out. You know, it might not be that often, but it’s definitely has meaning and there’s thought behind it, and a genuineness to it.

“When you’re a Lion, you realise who you’re playing for, what you’re trying to achieve as a player and who you want to make proud. That’s what I’ve learned from team talks in Lions changing rooms and Ireland changing rooms and Munster changing rooms.

“I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of leaders and they always bring it back to who you’re trying to make proud and what you’re actually here for. I think driving that message is important.”

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And with the likes of England captain Owen Farrell and Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg also in the 37-man squad, Murray believes he will be more than ably supported in the role.

“It’s a huge honour, but there’s such a good group of leaders in this squad that it makes it less daunting, definitely. I think there’s lads that you can lean on,” he added.

“We’ve seen it even for the first two weeks, a few other players would start to lead or start by saying a few words before training, or whatever the message might be for the week.

“There’s massive experience there so you know it’ll definitely be a group thing. I’m going to enjoy it and again lean on those boys. It’ll take a bit of getting used to, but it’s such an honour.”

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