Conor Murray hands British and Irish Lions a fitness boost
Conor Murray has given the British and Irish Lions a lift by confirming his return from a shoulder-related nerve injury is imminent.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland had stated that Murray must prove his fitness for Munster before the squad depart for New Zealand on May 29 if he is to participate in the tour and his first-choice scrum-half could be back as early as this weekend.
If Saturday's clash with Connacht proves too early, the Ireland international will make his first appearance since the penultimate round of the RBS 6 Nations in the Guinness PRO12 semi-final in a fortnight's time.
"I'm good, finally. I've been training with the lads for the last couple of weeks and trained on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week," Murray told Irish media on Thursday.
"I've been doing gradual return-to-play contact and yesterday (Wednesday) I did full contact, tackling people and taking proper hits, getting tackled myself and feeling pretty good.
"Hopefully I'll be playing really soon. Potentially I'll be involved this weekend, we'll wait and see how we go. It's pretty positive.
"I would put a good bet on being back for the semi-final. With the way I've been progressing over the last couple of weeks, it would suggest that I'm ready to play."
Murray was forced to miss Ireland's victory over England in Dublin in the climax to the Six Nations and Munster's march into the Champions Cup semi-finals, in which they lost to Saracens.
"Initially we thought I'd be back a lot sooner and with the uncertainty around the nerve injury, I was pretty worried," Murray said.
"A nerve injury is not like a muscle injury where you're told you'll be back in four weeks and you're back in four weeks. It's a little bit of an unknown.
"Nerves are sensitive, they can come back in a week or can take six or seven weeks, or they can take longer. Thankfully I'm at a stage where my strength is back."
While the Lions have been lifted by the news that Wales forwards Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones are also close to making comebacks, the All Blacks are dealing with a mounting injury list.
The influential trio of captain Kieran Read, flanker Jerome Kaino and hooker Dane Cole are in the treatment room, placing a question mark over their involvement in the series opener against the Lions on June 24.