Hansen expects Murray to start in Dublin, Schmidt leaves decision to his star

International
AAP
by AAP & Staff Writer

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will let Conor Murray make a call on his comeback against the All Blacks but his Kiwi counterpart Steve Hansen believes the star nine will certainly be running out in Dublin.

Murray has not played any competitive rugby since June due to a neck injury.

The decision lies in the hands of the 29-year-old who has formed a world class half-back partnership with Jonathan Sexton climaxing with the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year.

Kieran Marmion who stepped in for Murray for the 28-17 victory over Argentina on Saturday acquitted himself well, scoring their first try, but went off after rolling his ankle.

Marmion's replacement Luke McGrath also impressed in scoring a third try that finally killed off the Pumas.

Schmidt said the fact Murray hadn't been included in the matchday squad despite returning to training a while ago was not down to his injury.  

Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray is keen to get a win in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images"It was to take the pressure off him," Schmidt said.

"There is no compulsion for him to push himself forward and into the frame unless he is super comfortable.

"The three guys who we have had in the squad have done super jobs.

"However, Conor has an incredible capacity to give us the tempo and the pass that makes a world class player," he added.

Schmidt, whose side claimed a record 10th successive home, said he would chat to Murray to work out if he felt in a good enough place to come back for a match that pitches the two top-ranked teams in the world against each other.

"It's not the injury, it is really how he is and how fit he is," said the 53-year-old New Zealander.

"The injury itself has gone really well it is tough to throw him back into a match of this intensity.

"It is highly unlikely he will be involved but I will speak to him about it."

While Schmidt was circumspect about Murray, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said on the All Blacks' arrival in Dublin he was expecting the nine to play this weekend.

"I’m assuming Conor Murray will play, they have a good spine," he said.

"He and (Johnny) Sexton are two of the best players in the world."

"Big players will get up and if they think they're right to play then let them play.

"They're competitors, Conor Murray's a real competitor. If he says he's right to play, let him play."

Hansen said he wasn't trying to stir up any mind tricks around the Murray selection after last month suggesting the discussion around Murray might just be an "Irish trick".

"They're probably fitter and aligned in how they want to play and as I said before, they've a great spine that goes through the team, they have world class players and that's why I believe Murray will play," he said.

"Then there's a chance he might not. I just think he will play. I'm not saying that to cause any trouble or stir it.

"I just think he's a real competitor, he will want to play and if he has got a chance i reckon he'll want to play.

"If it was one of our guys, I reckon he would be putting his hand up to play."

Murray is not the only injury talking point for the Irish ahead of their blockbuster clash with the All Blacks.

Flanker Sean O'Brien is out with a broken arm, centre Robbie Henshaw was a late withdrawal with a hamstring tightness and will be monitored this week.

Injured duo Rob Kearney (shoulder) and Garry Ringrose (ribs) are both set to return to training this week in a bid to return for Sunday morning's (AEDT) clash.

Sonny Bill Williams will likely miss the Test against Ireland. Photo: Getty ImagesMeanwhile, New Zealand has called up Ngani Laumape to replace injured Sonny Bill Williams for the Dublin Test, Hansen confirmed on Monday morning (AEDT).

The 33-year-old Williams lasted just 30 minutes of the All Blacks' 16-15 victory over England at Twickenham before he left the field and Hansen said the Auckland centre would not be back for next week's clash with Ireland in Dublin.

"He's got a grade one AC (separated) shoulder," Hansen told reporters.

"He may be (out) for a week, maybe two."

The All Blacks face world No.2 Ireland next week, with their likely strongest possible side, before they end their November Tests schedule against Italy in Rome on the 24th.

The imposing inside centre was unlikely to have played against the Azzurri anyway, as Hansen had intended to give his fringe players game time on their end-of-season tour as he fine-tunes his Rugby World Cup plans.

Williams has had wrist, knee and shoulder problems, and played just five Tests this year, lasting the full 80 minutes in just one of them.

He also played just six games for the Blues and was under scrutiny for underperforming when he did take to the field, although Hansen added that he was the type of player whose form improves with matches.

Ireland hosts New Zealand at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday November 17, kicking off at 7pm local, Sunday 6am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports Foxtel Channel 513.