Belfast Telegraph

Conor Murray injury mystery does reputation of rugby no favours

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Conor Murray is injured, that much we know.

We also know that Alby Mathewson, the 32-year-old former All Black, has been recruited by Munster on a four-month contract with the blessing of the IRFU.

Everything else, informed or otherwise, is speculation.

Munster released an injury update on Monday which details their walking wounded. Beside each name is the part of the body they've hurt; Tyler Bleyendaal (neck), Chris Cloete (groin), Conor Oliver (toe), Chris Farrell (knee), Liam O'Connor (knee), Jack O'Donoghue (knee), and Ronan O'Mahony (ankle).

Alongside them was Murray whose name was included without brackets.

Asked about the absence of his most important player, Johann van Graan said: "I can't comment on Conor's injury. He's got an injury, and it's positive, but we just have to take it day-by-day."

It is believed that he is dealing with a neck/shoulder problem that hindered him last season and there are fears that he will miss Munster's first two European games and might be a doubt for Ireland's November games.

Murray took some part in Munster's training session at the University of Limerick on Monday, which can only be a positive sign that he is aiming to return long before attention turns to the internationals.

However, the length of Mathewson's contract suggests that Munster felt they needed cover until Christmas at least.

Apart from the very obvious factor of the province and, perhaps, national team being forced to cope without such a key player for these big games, the major question over Murray's absence is why there is a need for such secrecy.

Between the IRFU and some leading players, there has been a move to be more protective about medical information in recent times.

Jamie Heaslip is perhaps the most high profile example of a centrally contracted player who refused to give any information on his injury situation after he suffered a back problem in the warm-up for the clash with England in 2017.

He never played again as a result. "I understand we are in a public forum here," he said after retiring. "You have got to feed the beast a little bit. At the same time, you have to know where the line is, and sometimes players don't know where the line is."

For the teams Murray plays for, there may be a competitive advantage in keeping his return date quiet, while for a player approaching the end of his contract there is value in keeping injuries on the down-low.

He may also not want to give opponents a target to hit.

Insurance is also an issue as players begin to approach the end, and it is their prerogative how they deal with the information. But there are valid reasons for wanting more transparency.

For one thing, the players are public figures whose income is subsidised by the tax-payers.

That income is derived from the gate-receipts, television subscriptions and merchandise sales from fans left in the dark about the condition of their players.

For another, rugby is battling a perception that it has become a dangerous game to play, and one wonders what message is being sent by minimalist information.

It is also a sport at risk from doping, and transparency plays a big part in the fight against performance enhancing drugs.

No one is suggesting any wrong-doing in this case, but standards must be maintained for trust to exist.

By keeping the details under lock and key they are encouraging the speculation they so dislike.

Belfast Telegraph

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