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Sexton backs Murray missing All Blacks match

DUBLIN (AP) Jonathan Sexton supports Conor Murray's "smart" call not to make Ireland's showdown with the All Blacks this weekend his first match in five months.

Murray has not played since June, when he damaged his neck during Ireland's tour of Australia. He's been training, and coach Joe Schmidt said on Saturday after beating Argentina that he'd let Murray decide on his availability. On Monday, the scrumhalf was released from the squad for the rest of the month with center Robbie Henshaw, who injured a hamstring in the warmup and had to withdraw from the Pumas test.

"I obviously stayed in touch with Conor a lot over the injury to see how he has been getting on, and all the time (he's been) improving, but I suppose he's just trying to make sure he can get it right from now, and (it) not be an issue going forward," Sexton said of his long-time halves partner.