Munster coach Anthony Foley is hopeful winger Keith Earls and scrum-half Conor Murray will be fit for Saturday’s Champions Cup showdown against Stade Francais.
Murray is suffering a hip pointer injury which saw him miss the festive derbies against Leinster and Ulster, while Earls is recovering from the neck injury which saw him stretchered off against Leinster.
Foley opted not to risk either of the Irish internationals in the 9-7 win over Ulster in Belfast with some crucial European games coming over the next three weekends.
“We spoke to Conor (during the week and it became evident it wasn’t healing as quick, there was no point in re- aggravating it, the same as Keith Earls.
“The two boys wanted to get up to Belfast and play, but in order to make sure we have a squad to compete in the next three weeks in Europe, we need to be smart about what we do,” said Foley.
He also has concerns about Dave Foley (dead leg) and Andrew Conway (bruised hip) who were withdrawn shortly before the game against Ulster.
They are expected to be available and so too is Irish lock Donnacha Ryan, who missed the trip to Ulster with a knee injury.
Ryan got positive news on a scan and is expected back, but loosehead prop James Cronin is out for a month.
Meanwhile, Connacht’s injury crisis is starting to improve ahead of a crunch series of Pro 12 and European fixtures this month.
Three players- Peter Robb, Danie Poolman and James Connolly - are fit for Sunday’s pivotal Pro 12 fixture with leaders Scarlets, while two Ireland squad members, Robbie Henshaw and Denis Buckley, should be back in action later this month.
Centre Robb, elevated from Academy to a senior contract this week, has cleared return to play protocols after suffering concussion in the first-half against Newcastle last month, while wing Poolman and flanker Connolly have recovered from rib and hamstring injuries respectively.
It is welcome news for coach Pat Lam as the province bid to bounce back from losing their last three Pro12 games.
“There are lot of positives for us. I am not into winning or losing streaks but into how to win games and get points.
“The bottom line is we have an end goal where we need to get to at the end of the year. We currently sit third on the table, two points from the top, so the question is; are we on track to get to our goal, remembering all the injuries we have had and remembering the time of the year, are we still in touch? Yes, we are in a good place.”
While Henshaw has yet to announce his contract decision for next season, Lam says Connacht’s squad retention is exciting, having promoted both Robb and local flanker Sean O’Brien this week from the Academy.
“We now have five boys out of the Academy, year three, signed up — boys who have been with us right through pre-season.
“It is still an ongoing process as we build the squad, and try to make it as strong as possible.
“Our goal — and everyone knows what our goal is — is to play Champions Cup rugby next year, and we want to make sure we have a squad that continues to grow and develop, and the more guys we retain the better.”
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