British & Irish Lions

Murray surprised at being named Lions captain after Jones injury

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Conor Murray (Photo By Ian Rutherford/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Conor Murray (Photo By Ian Rutherford/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Conor Murray said he had been taken aback to be named as the new captain of the British and Irish Lions after Alun Wyn Jones was ruled out of the tour of South Africa by a dislocated shoulder.

Ireland scrumhalf Murray was thrust into the position just a day before the squad's departure following a 28-10 warm-up win over Japan at Murrayfield on Saturday where Jones had to leave the field injured just eight minutes into the game.

The leadership experience of Wales captain Jones, the world's most capped international and a veteran of three previous tours, was seen as an asset ahead of an eight-game schedule in South Africa culminating with three Tests against the world champion Springboks.

But although Murray has twice been a Lions tourist and had long been expected to start the Test series in the tactically important role of scrumhalf, few had tipped him as a possible skipper given he has not captained either Ireland or even his provincial side Munster.

Nevertheless, Lions coach Warren Gatland has overlooked the claims of England captain Owen Farrell, team-mate Maro Itoje and Wales hooker Ken Owens, who took charge at Murrayfield after Jones' injury, to appoint the 32-year-old Murray instead.

Asked if he was surprised to be installed into the prestigious post, Murray, whose 94 international caps include five Tests for the Lions, replied: "A little bit to be honest.

"I didn't even think about it. I knew that Al was out and then you look around the squad and there are so many contenders.

"Warren asked me just before the cap ceremony and it was surreal. I still don't have my head around it, but it's an unbelievable honour. It's something that I never thought would be possible."

Murray, in a statement issued by the Lions on Sunday, added: "I didn't think about it long. I said, 'absolutely, it'll be a massive honour. Thank you very much for this opportunity'.

"Then you kind of think about how big it is and then obviously my phone has gone a bit crazy since it was announced.

"I tried to call my girlfriend Joanna, but her phone was on one per cent as usual. Her phone was off and my dad is in Edinburgh, he was out with his friends having a few drinks, and so he was the first person I spoke to.

"My mum's in Kerry and I rang her. She's down with a few friends who were watching the Japan game and they're celebrating too, so it still hasn't sunk in to be honest."

The British and Irish Lions' first game in South Africa is against the Johannesburg-based Lions franchise (formerly Transvaal/Gauteng Lions) at Ellis Park on July 3, with the first Test in Cape Town on July 24.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your views on the World Rugby men's Player of the Year nominations for 2021 not including any Springboks?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
It's a disgrace! Both Siya Kolisi AND Eben Etzebeth should have been nominated!
39% - 6390 votes
Siya, at the very least, should have been included after a superb season
6% - 1016 votes
Etzebeth has been SA's best player this year and should feel hard done by
21% - 3472 votes
Get over it! Moaning about this just sounds like sour grapes!
33% - 5457 votes