10 Dec, 10:30
The IRFU and Munster are pleased to announce that Conor Murray has signed a new two year contract with the IRFU which will see him remain at Munster until at least June 2016.
Coach Ewen McKenzie told the 31-year-old former captain at the weekend that NSW would not exercise its option to retain him. Burke's release came as Wallaby back Mat Rogers signed on for a further three years, joining captain Chris Whitaker and vice-captain Phil Waugh in re-committing to the Waratahs.
The only person with more than 100 appearances for the Waratahs, Burke is expected to use upcoming matches for the Barbarians in Europe to showcase his talents for northern hemisphere club offers.
The Australian Rugby Union is likely to give him an early release from his contract in recognition of his long service which includes 68 Tests and yielded 851 points.
For his state, Burke made a record contribution of over 1000 points in more than a decade and he switched from fullback to centre following Rogers' arrival from rugby league in 2002. Acknowledging that Burke was one of the greats of NSW and Australian rugby, first-year head coach McKenzie said: "It will be probably the hardest decision I make this year I'd say, very difficult.
"I had to make a decision moving forward and I've got to look a bit longer term, so on that basis we've made a call."
The Canterbury Crusaders made their sixth Super 12 final on Saturday, inspired to a 27-16 win over the Western Stormers by influential All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall who was only cleared fit to play on the eve of the match.
The Crusaders, who have won four Super 12 crowns and been runner-up once in the nine-year history of the southern hemisphere inter-provincial rugby union championship, fought back from a 6-13 deficit with Marshall playing a key role in two telling tries.
Two weeks ago Marshall suffered a painful hip injury and the original prognosis said he would be out of rugby for up to six weeks, but he passed a late fitness test to take his place in the side.
Although the evergreen halfback was silent on whether he was fully fit, he admitted to being "desperate to be here".
Crusaders skipper Rueben Thorne was in no doubt about Marshall's influence on the game, as the Canterbury outfit struggled to gain the ascendancy up front without lineout kingpin Chris Jack who was knocked out during last week's match, and the suspended loose forward Mose Tuiali'i. "It was great to have Marshy back, directing play. He made a big difference," Thorne said.
The first half was played at a furious pace with both sides favouring rolling mauls and when the Stormers snapped the ball out wide, centre De Wet Barry, punched holes in the Crusaders defence.
After Daniel Carter and Gaffie du Toit had traded two penalties each, Barry was rewarded with the first try of the match, which came courtesy of a sloppy Crusaders lineout.
The Stormers snaffled the ball and hammered the defence for several phases before Barry broke through a tackle to score.
Du Toit's conversion and two more Carter penalties had the Stormers ahead 13-12 at halftime. As the experienced Crusaders stepped up a notch in the second half, the Stormers began to tire, showing the effects of flying from Christchurch to South Africa and back again in the past fortnight.
Within two minutes of the restart the Crusaders took the lead with a superb Marshall try that started when he made the initial break inside his own 22 and was on hand to take the final pass from Marika Vunibaka to score at the other end of the field.
Carter converted, and three minutes later du Toit slotted another penalty to make it 19-16. Marshall set the scene for the final try of the match with 15 minutes remaining when he called his backs into rolling maul, swelling the Crusaders pack to 11 as they drove relentlessly forward, and from a scrum close to the line Caleb Ralph finished a regulation move to score wide out.
"The first half was all about pressure. They put the hits on us and we managed to come out even, but in the second half we wanted to pile it on them and play down their end of the field," Thorne said. "We really wanted to put in a solid performance and I think we did that."
AFP - 2004.