Conor Murray: British and Irish Lions aim to put smiles on faces says new captain

4 weeks ago
Conor Murray

Captain Conor Murray says the British and Irish Lions want to “put a smile on people’s faces” amid rising Covid-19 infection rates in South Africa.

The Lions arrived in Johannesburg shortly after president Cyril Ramaphosa announced stricter measures.

Organisers are exploring contingency plans with doubts over the eight-match series taking place as scheduled.

“We’re very aware of what’s going on outside with the lockdown,” said Murray.

“But we’re here to hopefully put a smile on people’s faces both here in South Africa and back at home.

“Since we’ve been here, when the bus stops at traffic lights we’ll have people beeping at us, waving and smiling at us so I think there’s a good buzz around us being here.

The Lions are due to play their first three matches – and the last two Tests – in the Gauteng region of South Africa which has been affected heavily by Covid-19.

South Africa’s president Ramaphosa has announced new restrictions, including a ban on all gatherings, alcohol sales and a 9pm curfew.

“We’re obviously very aware of the situation outside the hotel, but we literally go from the hotel to the training ground so we’re very much restricted with our movements,” added Murray.

“We’re very lucky to be able to do what we are doing and we are very focused on putting on a show for people to get behind and support us.”

The Springboks squad had been isolating after three of their players tested positive for Covid-19.

But they are back in training and preparing for their match against Georgia on Friday night, in what is their first Test since winning the World Cup in 2019.

Siya Kolisi will captain the Springboks, who will field two debutants as wingers Rosko Specman and Aphelele Fassi get starting spots.

“We’ll sit down and watch it and there’ll be big interest in that,” said Murray.

“There’s a feeling since we landed here in South Africa that it’s time for the serious stuff so it’ll all kick off now.”

Murray, who has toured twice before with the Lions and has 89 Ireland caps, was named as Lions captain after Alun Wyn Jones dislocated his shoulder during Saturday’s warm-up win over Japan.

The scrum-half was a surprise appointment to many, but has received the full support of his team-mates.

“They don’t call me by my name anymore, it’s ‘skips’ for the moment so I’m trying to get rid of that tag,” he added.

“But once Warren [Gatland. Lions head coach] said I would be captain everyone came up and said ‘congrats’ – and you could tell that they meant it.

“So it’s great to have the support of your fellow players and I think that is the most important thing.”

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