Munster’s preparations for their Guinness PRO14 semi-final at Champions Cup winners Leinster have been hit by the loss of tighthead prop Stephen Archer following surgery on a pectoral muscle.
Head coach Johann van Graan was on Monday set to welcome Archer’s positional rivals John Ryan (back) and Brian Scott (ribs) back to training but the loss of the province’s current first-choice tighthead is a serious setback to Munster’s hopes of upsetting their interprovincial rivals.
News of Archer’s operation emerged following Munster’s press conference on Monday, when captain Peter O’Mahony said he is relishing the opportunity to challenge Leinster after admitting “everyone’s jealous” of the newly-crowned European champions.
The Munster skipper watched many of his Grand Slam-winning Ireland team-mates lift a second trophy this season when Leinster defeated Racing 92 in Bilbao on Saturday to win the Champions Cup final.
O’Mahony now gets to be the first to throw down the gauntlet to Leo Cullen’s side when they visit Dublin’s RDS this weekend with ambitions of their own to keep alive hopes of a first piece of silverware since 2011.
That drive, he said on Monday, was further motivated by Leinster’s new status as champions of Europe.
“I'd be lying if I said it didn’t,” O’Mahony said, of course it's a massive challenge.
“We're the first up, we'll get the first opportunity, that's something that comes with being the champions, everyone's jealous and wants to be like you.
“Every club in Europe now wants to be like Leinster, wants to be where Leinster are. It's 100 per cent deserved, they've been the best team in Europe and it's deserved that they've won, but what comes with it is every team wants to knock you. We get the first chance.
“It's a nice one to be the first team to challenge them. I've never played in the RDS, I've heard a lot about it, watched a lot of rugby there... obviously a superb venue and an intimate one and I think everybody is looking forward to the challenge.”
Munster had a free weekend as Leinster were winning their fourth European title but the losing Champions Cup semi-finalists have been regrouping following their PRO14 quarter-final win over Edinburgh in Limerick 10 days ago.
Aside from Ryan and Scott, head coach van Graan was on Monday also set to welcome back openside flanker Chris Cloete to training following a broken forearm suffered against Glasgow Warriors in March, a sooner than expected return having been ruled out for the rest of the season. Also back in contention is hooker Niall Scannell (AC joint) although wing Andrew Conway and scrum-half Duncan Williams continue to go through their return to play protocols following the failure of recent Head Injury Assessments.
Making no mention of Archer’s surgery, van Graan said: “Niall Scannell, John Ryan and Brian Scott will be on the field today so we can assess them further. Andrew Conway and Duncan Williams still have to be cleared after HIAs.
“Jaco Taute has taken part in some training but still needs to be assessed on the field. Chris Cloete is back on the field today so we will have a look at him. Apart from that, we are pretty good.”