Brian O’Driscoll Conor Murray Ireland stay encourages others to follow suit

Rugby


Former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll says Conor Murray’s decision to extend his contract with Munster and the Irish Rugby Football Union will encourage other players to stay in the country.

Scrum-half Murray will now remain in Ireland until 2022, dismissing fears that he would leave Ireland to play elsewhere following next year’s World Cup, when his previous deal was set to expire.

“It’s significant,” O’Driscoll told ESPN. “You want to retain your best players and he is one of those. He has arguably been the best No. 9 in the world over the last couple of years, with himself and Aaron Smith vying for that accolade.

“I think it’s a real coup because I’m sure he would have had plenty of suitors out there, but I’m glad that business has been done nice and early in the season, before there was any need to start looking at other options. He’s a passionate Munster man, so to get to continue playing for his home province is a big deal to him.”

Murray, 29, has earned 67 caps for Ireland since making his debut in 2011, winning Six Nations titles in 2014, 2015 and 2018.

The two-time British & Irish Lion has benefitted from the IRFU’s central contract model, which allows Irish rugby’s governing body to determine the players’ schedules ahead of crucial times in the season.

And although Murray is currently injured with a neck injury and has been ruled out since Ireland’s final Test against Australia in June, O’Driscoll said his decision shows that the central contract model is working for the IRFU.

“For Conor Murray to sign up for another three years makes sense on a lot of fronts,” said O’Driscoll, who was speaking as a BT Sport ambassador and analyst.

“It shows that the IRFU are doing really good businesses, it shows that Conor Murray feels the value of being rested at key times in a season, where he can be fresh for internationals but also hitting his stride for European rugby with Munster.

“It’s a combination of a number of things and I just think in general it’s a great sign because players like that signing encourage others to sign as well.

“Younger players in Munster who are looking further afield will realise their best players are signing on again. Peter O’Mahony signed, CJ Stander signed, Conor Murray signed, so why would you want to be leaving this team when you are getting to play with that calibre of player.

“There is always going to be exceptions to that vision but there’s rarely more than one player a year who heads off. This year it was Simon Zebo, a few years ago it was Johnny Sexton. You’re always going to have guys that will go for whatever their own personal reasons are, be it monetary or otherwise.

“But for the most part, players do tend to stay in Ireland because they know they’re getting looked after.”

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