Murray defies ‘exodus’ and remains with Munster

murray
Conor Murray has quashed the rumours linking him with a move to France by signing a new two year contract with Munster and the IRFU. The deal will see him remain at the region until June 2016.

Murray has made a total of 49 appearances for Munster, since joining the region from Connacht in April 2010.

“We are delighted that Conor has signed a new IRFU contract which will secure him to Munster until the end of the 2016 season,” said Munster coach Rob Penney.

“Conor has illustrated in recent months the value he brings to not only Munster, but to the national team as well. At 24 he is still a young guy and he has the potential to go on to become one of the best scrum-halves in the game.”

Murray himself said: “I am thrilled to sign a new IRFU contract and to continue playing my rugby with Munster. In 2013 I learned a lot as a player with my province, Ireland and the Lions and I hope to continue to develop and push for honours over the coming years.”

This is a hugely positive piece of news for Irish rugby fans, who have had several of their biggest stars linked to French giants in recent weeks. Along with Murray, Jamie Heaslip has also been linked to Toulouse, while Sean O’Brien, who is currently up there with the best back-rowers in the world, has been linked with Clermont Auvergne.

It is particularly poignant in light of Johnny Sexton’s condition during the recent Autumn Internationals. Having signed for Racing Métro this season, Sexton has played significantly more rugby than the rest of the Irish squad, as he is no longer under the management of the IRFU. He struggled with injury over the autumn, as well as form, appearing jaded at times when he was playing.

Irish fans and management alike will be desperate for a similar situation not to befall the rest of their top players, and Murray, whose star has been on the rise since an impressive tour with the Lions over the summer, deciding to stay is a significant boost for them.

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

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21 comments on “Murray defies ‘exodus’ and remains with Munster

  1. I’m not sure we can use the word “exodus” for the Irish yet. Only Sexton has left, so I find that a bit much.

    Certainly if players like Heaslip and SOB start leaving then it may increase, but I still wouldn’t say it was a big issue.

    • Wales lose Phillips, Charteris, Doc, Lydiate and Jon Davies – that’s an Eeodus.

      IF (bit IF, not confirmed, but plenty of Irish journo’s on Twitter commenting that it is expected), Ireland lose

      Sexton, Heaslip, O’Brien

      then that is also an exodus. It shows that the Irish have, much like the Welsh, run out of ammunition in the face of the gargantuan funding behind the French clubs. These are two of Ireland’s best players, well on their way to the taxman funded sweetener, playing for the one of the biggest clubs in Europe, and they might still see France as a better option?

      It’s scary, very scary. Someone wrote recently that we could end up with pro-rugby in France and England, semi-pro in Ireland and Wales and amateur everywhere else in the NH. That’s a very real possibility.

      The pillocks down at the ERC and PRL need to get their heads around this quickly, the Euro dogs dinner is part of the problem.

      • Amen Brighty

        BTW – did you know that the ERC, IRB and 6N HQs are all in Dublin?

        It makes the French suggestion for a new Euro cup HQ in Geneva interesting

  2. As someone who doesn’t actually live in any of the six nations and who’s allegiances are divided I’m increasingly tempted to give up following the Pro12/Premiership and find myself some Top-14 TV access. Almost all my favourite players have moved there and, without a specific club to follow, why wouldn’t my attention go there too?

    I can see many others ending up in this position and if that is the case the Top-14 is not going to stop getting more financially powerful.

    brighty’s idea of a fall of professionalism is a step too far though. England alone runs two fully-professional leagues (even though no big rugby sites really pay much attention to the Championship). If England can run 24 squads I can’t see Wales/Scotland/Ireland being unable to fund 2-4 each. They may continue to see a player drain of their top talent – but they haven’t had a likewise sudden and dramatic drain of overall funds, academy graduates or fan support.

    The French may pay their professionals more, but that doesn’t mean professionals earning less will cease to exist.

    • I’m increasingly tempted to give up following the Pro12/Premiership and find myself some Top-14 TV access. Almost all my favourite players have moved there and, without a specific club to follow, why wouldn’t my attention go there too

      But this is the crux of it, if the regions, in particular, are struggling with income and attendances and you no longer get to watch any of your national stars it’s just a downward spiral. Attendance drops, sponsors won’t pay as much, there is less money to spend on players, players move …. repeat ….

      Like Brighty, this is why I’m so angry over the Euro farce. The one hope to get a strong competition, that brings in some serious revenue for all (provided the clubs sell the rights as they can get more for it than ERC!) goes down the toilet.

      England, with the very good decision by Lancaster to pick home based players only, will be self sufficient and support a strong professional game. But fringe players, those coming to the end of their careers and top foreign talent will not be attracted to the Premiership, so the gap between the standards in the leagues will widen.

    • “they haven’t had a likewise sudden and dramatic drain of overall funds, academy graduates or fan support.”

      The Welsh regions have and the Scottish ones are not drawing massive crowds either. IF Leinster/Munster/Ulster lose their best players then they will enter the same spiral

      - less success -> less crowds
      - less success -> less temptation for overseas stars to go there
      - less crowds, lower quality players -> less success

      and so on and so on….

      Professionals earning less can go to the French 2nd division. The problem will be creating professionals in Wales/Ire/Sco – if their initial end result is some crappy quality region/province then perhaps they wouldn’t even start down that road.

  3. Well, herein lies a bit of a conundrum. I don’t have BT, although I get to watch the odd game in the pub or club or at a mates house. So my view is not all-encompassing by any means.

    But my views are (generalising but heart-felt);
    Heineken Cup – love it.
    Premiership – mostly enjoy it.
    Pro14 – some guys excellent, others far less so (I had the misfortune to watch ToulonvRacing last w/e)
    Amlin – can take it or leave it.
    Rabo – really enjoy the few games I see
    Championship – really, really enjoy the games.
    Super Rugby – rarely can be bothered with it.

    So, what this says to me is that away from HC, I am not overly fussed with watching the “stars”, as to me, the most entertaining rugby is in the English second tier and (arguably) europes third best domestic comp.

    So from a viewing perspective, I don’t care who goes to France, or indeed the Premiership if that happens too.

    I suspect that I am not alone in this view however, as a lifetime watcher of all sorts of rugby I may have a minority view – and here is the crux of it I guess.

    The money is where the connoisseurs are not.

    The money (advertising) follows the bright colours and famous names, irrespective of the quality, because it is the masses who struggle to know the difference between tight head and loose head, a free kick and a penalty, and when hands are allowed on the ball or not (actually we all struggle with that last one!), who the administrators are really interested in.

    So the markets are in France and England (and South Africa?), not because of any greater love of the game, but because of the size of the “opportunity”. Wales and Scotland don’t have the numbers, and Ireland, although not a massive population fight against not only football, but the Gaelic sports too.

    So, what to do? Perhaps Wales and Scotland have to accept that they cannot compete with the English and French clubs, and perhaps let them breakaway? Perhaps even re-organise themselves and join in?

    One Scottish “super-club” PLUS another elsewhere – London Scottish? Two Welsh clubs instead of 4?

    I am not supporting this, I just feel that this may be where we end up going.

    The flip side of course, is that the “product” is diluted. This is what I feel is happening now at the Top domestic levels. This leads to the nouveau support drifting off to next the next big thing, with their consumer €’s and £’s, money drifts out of the French game, and power starts returning to the Scots and Welsh regions. Perhaps.

    Lastly, even if the best Welsh, Irish and Scottish players leave home, it doesn’t necessarily make their domestic game any worse to watch (quite the opposite imho). The trick is to convince the floating voters(supporters) of that.

    Ramble finished.

  4. Lot of good points there Blub. I agree with you about super rugby – leaves me cold despite the obvious skill on show.

    I was ranting about something similar the other day – all of this movement is about “advertising eyes” to me, not about rugby fans. They want the kids, wives and dads who have a passing interest in rugby and fancy doing something on a Saturday night. These people want to see Cipriani or Henson in a winning team, playing exciting rugby. Witness Saints on Sat night – hordes of glory hunters running out of the stadium with 20mins left because their night was being spoiled by their team getting a kicking. Don’t get me wrong, undoubtedly Saints have lots of genuine fans, but not enough for a 20,000 crowd to get behind their team until the bitter end.

    So I agree with you, that’s the sort of fan that rugby is now chasing as that is where the growth is. It’ll be like American soccer soon where you have people unironically calling themselves “ultra fans” and professing undying love for their franchise that didn’t even exist 4 years ago, all while dressed up like t**** in funny hats and oversized shirts. Depressing for an old curmudgeon who wants to watch the game.

    • Plus, you have an extremely good point about 2nd tier rugby. The Welsh league, with the likes of Ponty, Cardiff, Neath, etc. is an excellent watch.

    • Most of the hardcore fans of American Football are the fans of college football. Because the NFL is a franchise system. NFL on Sunday for the casual fan, college on Saturday.

      It is a shame university (or unions) rugby isn’t bigger

  5. I think we are all looking at this the wrong way. New Zealand has roughly the same population as Ireland. The difference is the culture of rugby. Ireland do very well considering rugby is not as popular as some other sports. Wales has no excuse, its the national sport and its in a bit
    of a state on a club level.
    What does it tell you if a sport is in near collapse if have a dozen top players leave. And what does it tell you about French rugby when they have to import top players to support the club system! The culture of rugby needs to improve and production of domestic talent needs to improve. A dedicated rugby channel may be! If it had a higher profile more people might go to the games. I’m sure it would work.

    • Tony, I am not sure that the French need imports to support their club system. Likewise I don’t believe that the Welsh game is in near collapse. It is a bit more accute than that.

      The French clubs import, not to support their system, but to enhance and excel their results. They do so, not because they have to, but because they can afford to.

      Wales is a little more complicated, and I am far from an expert in this area, but it seems to me that it is not the game that is in near collapse, but the top level structure. This indeed is a culture thing, and I am sure Brighty or someone else will correct me where I am wrong, but the Welsh paying public have not really bought into the regions, and many still harbour preferred allegiances to their clubs and town sides.

      I’ll go out on a limb here, as I can find no hard facts to back this up, but;
      Football is by far an away the higher participation and spectator sport in Wales. With Cardiff and Swansea in the Premier League now, this disparity is increasing.

      Rugby has an historic link to Welsh identity, and for such a small country (like New Zealand) it certainly punches above its weight in terms of participation and spectatorship, BUT it is very much in second place.

      One Stat I do have is that last season, the Ospreys averaged just over 9k per home game. Swansea City averaged just over 20k. I believe that the difference between the two Cardiffs is even more pronounced – higher football attendance and lower Rugby attendance.

  6. Seeing as we are talking specifically about Ireland, a couple of points. I realize I make points ‘all over the map’ (inadvertant pun), so my apologies before hand.

    Exodus:
    I think people underestimate how much people from Ireland want to live in Ireland. There may be a couple more Irish that move to France, but the Jonny Sexton move highlights that the move has it’s downsides.
    See this article…
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/article-2521067/Johnny-Sexton-struggling-following-big-money-Racing-move.html

    Another example from a non-Irish player – Pienaar – the Ulster scrum half /South African international also chose to turn down about 1.5 times the money to stay in Ulster.
    - His wife and family had settled and liked Ulster, so he didn’t want to move.

    Support:
    In terms of supporters, the Irish provinces have much stronger identities than the English town clubs or the new Welsh regions. In Ireland, you are from one of the 4 provinces; the Gaelic football and hurling championships are organized around those provinces; they are recognized as being ancient divisions of Ireland that mean something.
    - Every Irishman knows what province he is from.

    Finally (by quirk of history) the Irish provinces are a very good size for success in Europe. Each has a (potential) fan base of say 500k (Connacht) to say 1 million (Ulster/Munster) to say 2 million (Leinster).

    Success in Europe- I do think that the European competition is the key.
    Irish sport has plenty of internal (inter county) sport. But we don’t have any other major sport that has teams that succeed in Europe.
    And don’t forget that for Europe, we also root for every Irish team. We are glad to see any Irish team do well.

    What’s scary is that if the welsh teams go to the English Premiership, what will happen to the Celtic League / Pro 12?

    • I don’t think anyone is underestimating how much Irish players would prefer to stay in Ireland but I don’t think that Ireland has any sort of monopoly on that feeling.

      The Jonny Sexton article could have been written about any number of rugby players from various countries – lots of them have “struggled” since moving abroad, lots of them haven’t.

      Having 700K a year dangled in front of you will a) quash any feelings of homesickness and b) make you think you will be the one that won’t struggle.

      “And don’t forget that for Europe, we also root for every Irish team. We are glad to see any Irish team do well. ” Yes, but that’s the case for all countries. Nothing special about Ireland there.

      Pienaar – yes, wife and kids so made a choice based on the whole package – where he was living, money, etc. There would still have been a price at which he’d have gone. It also wasn’t as simple as turning down 1.5 times – IRFU gave him guarantees of release for SA, the French were not so forthcoming. There is a lot of money involved in playing for SA.

      The only thing that is going to prevent Ireland from also becoming a feeder to the Top 14 is money. Sexton has shown that all of the other things – player management, wanting to stay at home, wanting to stay with a winning club etc. merely push up the price at which any particular player will decide to leave. The French have shown that they’ve got enough money to overcome those prices so I see nothing in what you say to indicate the Irish have a special position that means they will not see an exodus to France. If they don’t it will be because the players prices have not been met and/or the IRFU will borrow even more money to fund players wages.

      • “the Irish provinces have much stronger identities than the English town clubs or the new Welsh regions” – I’ll agree with you about the Welsh regions but must differ on the “English town clubs”. To indicate that Munster have a stronger identity than, for example, Gloucester is just not recognising the depth of feeling for rugby around there.

    • The majority of regions & premiership clubs would be delighted to have the same following (in number and fervour) as the provinces. But this alone doesn’t make them immune to market forces. With the IRFU are already reportedly borrowing heavily to fund the game it doesn’t seem they have the spending power to compete.

      If you asked each Welsh international exile ‘where would you rather be playing your rugby’? Wales or not-Wales I don’t think many are choosing not-Wales. The argument of ‘people like it here’ isn’t one to pin your hopes on (you can’t really use Piennar as your argument for people wanting to stay when Afoa is leaving for family reasons.) People also like the Mediterranean coast (even if Toulon is hardly one of the glamour spots on that coast). Sure it doesn’t work out for everyone (Jenkins) but a lot of players from all over the world are enjoying a better climate, a lot more money in their pocket, and a chance to play with some of the greats that you would normally only get in a BaaBaas team. There are many more positives than negatives.

      We then also have the report this morning of a takeover at London Irish, key to re-establish an Irish identity and targeting Irish internationals so it’s not just France looking to buy Irish talent.

      In my opinion the only card to play is to pick home based players only for international rugby. Argentina are moving to this post RWC 2015 I think (with some representation in super rugby). Without this market forces (new TV deals in France and England will drive wage inflation even higher) will prevail.

      It’s complacent to assume that just because the provinces are well supported and currently have excellent success in Europe there will not be an exodus. When there are no Welsh international left in Wales to recruit where are the agents/recruiters going to look to next?

    • “I think people underestimate how much people from Ireland want to live in Ireland.”

      Really??? Are you sure about that??? I always thought that Ireland’s biggest export was people???

  7. What about university links?
    Take Sale for example, I have been to Sale matches as I am at University of Manchester but that is because I’ll do anything to watch any rugby (leicester fan :/)
    Combining University of Manchester, Salford Uni and Manchester Met there are 100,000 students in Manchester if there was :
    A. Good transport links to Salford City Stadium (its really bad from city centre)
    B. Student prices (students are tight fisted)
    C. maybe an affiliation so organised transport from the unions for matches

    Then you could probably get another 300 people a match there, thats potentially another £3,000 ticket revenue just in a match, and if Sale sold their merchandise through the unions too at discount they would get a good revenue from that too.

    I don’t want to encourage the kind of fair weather fan system any more than the next person but because of the low number of clubs there isn’t intra city rivalry (unless you’re in London I suppose) so you could try and encourage a city unity.
    The same could be done in most cities in the country and would be great in Cardiff for instance with Uni and Met there.
    It is an idea with many holes in but it might create a greater following for clubs and allay some of their financial and attendance issues.

    • The Uni idea is a good one and Cardiff are working hard on it. Despite all of the gloom around the regions the Blues have been impressive since the new CEO took over – he listened to the fans and moved us back to the city centre. Attendances are up. Season ticket and merchandise sales are up. The promotion is a lot better. Still a long way to go though. The Blues started this Uni link this year – http://www.cardiffblues.com/development/blues_university_cup.php

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