British & Irish Lions captain Conor Murray said on Tuesday that playing under key members of the Springbok coaching staff at Munster had given him insight into how the world champions might play in the forthcoming Test series in South Africa.
The scrumhalf came under the influence of South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, coach Jacques Nienaber and coaching consultant Felix Jones when all three were at Murray’s Munster club.
“What they’ve done over the past couple of years, obviously winning the World Cup, has been really impressive,” said Murray during an online media conference in Johannesburg.
“Watching them in the World Cup and having played at Munster under them, there were similar ideas in what they were doing and what they were showing.
“There’ll be areas that you have a little insight into, but everyone is doing analysis on each other, everyone knows each other as well as they can.
“If something pops into my head about a certain way Jacques wanted us to play at Munster and we see it in the South African side, that might be a little insight.
“At the same time, you’ve got to be prepared for surprises. You’ve got to be quite adaptable. It’s a bit of an insight having worked under them, but at the same time it could be completely different.”
It was Murray’s first media conference after what he described as “a crazy couple of days” since being named captain in Edinburgh this past Saturday after Alun Wyn Jones was injured during the Lions’ warm-up win over Japan.
He said he had been able to spend “a couple of minutes” with Wyn Jones before the team’s departure on Sunday.
“He said, ‘Just be yourself’. He said he’s at the end of a phone if anything crops up.”
Murray said the absence of spectators in Covid-19-hit South Africa “makes you think about how good it would be if the fans were here but there [are] far more important things going on outside this tour and you’ve got to respect that.
“We are very aware of what’s going on outside with the lockdown and the protocols. We’re here to try to put a smile on people’s faces here and back home.”
Although the players were restricted to their hotel, only able to travel to a training ground, they had been made to feel welcome.
“People at traffic lights wave at us and smile at us. There’s a good buzz around us being here.
“Most if not all of the players are used to playing without fans, we’re used to what it is.
“It would great but it doesn’t take away how special the Lions is, how much of a challenge it is in the world champions’ backyard. There’s plenty of motivation for us,” he said.
Murray said he did not believe the captaincy would put extra pressure on him.
“The reason [coach] Warren [Gatland] chose me is from what he’s seen so it’s very important I remain myself and continue to do what I’ve done. I don’t want to try and become someone different.”
The Lions play their first match against their namesakes, the Johannesburg-based Lions, on Saturday.
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