It has been a lingering concern throughout the opening games of 2019, the fitness and form of Conor Murray.
Since his return from injury, the Munster man has struggled to rekindle the exceptional level of performance that had him regarded as the best scrum-half in the world last year.
Initially, the precise nature of the injury or how long it would keep him out was not confirmed. Speaking to Balls.ie last October, Murray labelled the speculation which filled the information gap regarding the injury as "crazy."
Now, in an interview with the Irish Times, the 29-year-old has opened the lid on the specifics of his injury and its effects. He explained that an old issue was aggravated last summer while on holiday with his partner.
I hiccupped in the car. That’s the way it can happen; a sneeze, a hiccup or any sudden movement. Getting hit with cold water in the shower, something like that. Two days later I was in pain and spasm. The disc had bulged to the point that it was on the nerve. Horrible pain. I didn’t sleep for three days.
He added that there are still lingering strength issues but no pain: “The strength in my pec and triceps was the main thing. That could take a long time to come back, like a year, but in terms of rugby and passing it’s all sweet.”
In that October interview with Balls.ie, Murray explained that the complicated issue wasn't helped by the third test in Australia last June.
"It’s just the same neck issue I’ve had pretty much. I got a couple of bangs in Australia and a bit of wear and tear basically. I got a bang in each game. In the third game, I probably got my biggest bang and it just flared up over the summer when I was away."
Speaking on Virgin Media Sport, Matt Williams explained how this sort of injury can impact Murray's game.
What that does, we noticed during the Champions Cup, I felt Conor had lost a lot of condition across his chest and arms. I think Shane Jennings and I were doing that game and said 'jees, he looks slight.' That puts you off, sometimes you get an imbalance with that. You can get hypertrophy, in other words gaining muscle, on one side and atrophy, losing muscle on the other side.
That can put you off. I have just noticed his kicking game is off. He is the best box-kicker in the world, he has kicked really poorly. He seems to be taking a lot longer to get the ball away. He's just out of form.
Conor Murray clarified his injury situation this week, outlining that a bulging disc in his neck is what kept him out of the game for so long ☘
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) February 23, 2019