Moments that made them: Conor Murray

The three-time tourist is looking to add a second United Rugby Championship title to his collection [more]

Moments that made them: Conor Murray

Conor Murray won his first major title at the age of just 22.

Twelve years later, with three British & Irish Lions Tours, two Grand Slams and 114 caps under his belt, Murray has now added a second United Rugby Championship title to his collection.

It has been a remarkable journey for the scrum-half – who was recognised by being named in World Rugby’s Men’s Team of the Decade.

Conor Murray

And as he prepares for the latest chapter in a remarkable career, let us look back on the moments that led to this point:

  1. Early triumphs against Australia 

After making his Munster debut two days before his 21st birthday, Murray played his part in an historic night for the club, coming off the bench in a 15-6 win over the touring Wallabies in November 2010.

A year later, he was part of the Ireland squad that travelled to the World Cup in New Zealand, earning his first cap in the build-up to the campaign.

Out of nowhere, Murray went from uncapped to being an important member of the matchday 23, coming off the bench in the group match against Australia.

Just as Munster had 12 months earlier, Ireland ran out 15-6 winners, with Murray playing the final quarter of the game.

He got his chance to start against Italy in their last group game and kept his starting role for the quarter-final defeat to Wales – establishing himself as Ireland’s first choice No.9 for the long-term.

  1. First Lions Tour 

By 2013, Murray was locked in as a key cog for Declan Kidney’s Ireland, and it was no surprise when he was selected for his first British & Irish Lions Tour that summer – up against his favourite opponents.

With Mike Phillips, the Test starter four years earlier in South Africa, in the squad, Murray ended up battling for the back-up role in the Test squad with Ben Youngs.

Youngs got the nod for the first Test and was then promoted to the starting line-up for the second as Phillips was dropped, giving Murray his chance off the bench.

While the Wallabies levelled the series, Murray clearly caught the eye, keeping his spot on the bench as Phillips and Youngs swapped once more.

In the decider, Murray was thrown into the fray with half an hour remaining and the Lions edged it 22-16. In those 30 minutes, they scored 19 unanswered points to power to a famous series victory.

  1. Ireland success 

Murray went from strength to strength after that Lions Tour and was part of an Ireland team that began to enjoy a great deal of success.

He started every game of their back-to-back Six Nations titles in 2014 and 2015, the latter clinched in dramatic circumstances on a memorable Super Saturday, a year after a narrow victory in Paris had allowed the team to send Brian O’Driscoll off with a title.

And when Ireland made history with their first-ever win over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016, Murray was integral to it, scoring a try and a penalty in the 40-29 victory.

  1. Lions Test starts 

Murray’s form was rewarded with a second call-up for the Lions as they toured New Zealand in 2017 and this time around, he was the favourite to start when the Tests rolled around.

He lived up to the billing, starting all three Tests, with his finest moment coming in the victorious second.

With the Lions trailing 21-14, Murray crossed for a crucial try – becoming the first northern hemisphere player ever to score four tries against the All Blacks.

Owen Farrell levelled the scores with a conversion and added a match-winning penalty three minutes from time as Murray played the full 80 minutes, before starting once more in the drawn decider at Eden Park – the first time New Zealand had failed to win at the ground in 23 years.

  1. A Grand Slam 

Murray showed no signs of slowing down on his return from that Lions Tour, helping Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2018, starting every game.

Having won four out of four, with Murray grabbing tries against Italy and Scotland, Ireland travelled to Twickenham looking to complete the clean sweep.

On a snowy day, Ireland produced one of their most complete displays of the Joe Schmidt era, with Murray even chipping in with a penalty in the 24-15 win.

  1. Lions captaincy and more Slam glory 

By 2021, Murray was still going strong for Ireland and earned selection for a third Lions Tour, this time to South Africa.

When Tour captain Alun Wyn Jones suffered a dislocated shoulder in the warm-up clash with Japan, Warren Gatland needed a new captain, with Murray given the honour.

Conor Murray

As it turned out, Jones’ remarkable recovery meant that Murray missed the chance to captain the team in the Test series, named on the bench in the opening Test as Ali Price was preferred.

Still, by coming on in that match, Murray joined a very select group of players to have won Lions Tests against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – a feat achieved by just ten men since 1888 (the others are Rhys Williams, Tony O’Reilly, Jason Leonard, Ieuan Evans, Jeremy Guscott, Martin Johnson, Alun Wyn Jones, Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell).

The emergence of Jamison Gibson-Park saw Murray come under pressure for his Ireland spot with Craig Casey doing the same for Munster.

However, in 2023, he played every game as Ireland claimed the Grand Slam, including starts against Wales, France and Scotland, as well as coming off the bench against Italy and England.

Now, aged 34, he will look to add some more silverware to his collection at domestic level before a World Cup which Ireland enter as the world’s number one side.

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