Penney must juggle side ahead of derby

Munster coach Rob Penney has a number of selection headaches ahead of Friday night’s RaboDirect Pro12 clash with Connacht at Thomond Park (7.15pm).

BJ Botha is certain to miss out after the South African prop suffered a knee injury in Saturday’s dramatic win over the Scarlets at Musgrave Park, while Duncan Casey, Dave O’Callaghan and Tommy O’Donnell, who all suffered collisions on the night, did not take part in training yesterday and will continue to follow standard return to play protocols.

Donnacha Ryan is awaiting the results of a scan to assess the seriousness of a swollen knee which flared up after training on Thursday. Ryan was due to partake in this week’s national training camp at Carton House along with Peter O’Mahony, Paul O’Connell, Dave Kilcoyne and Keith Earls while Conor Murray will continue his knee rehabilitation at the Kildare get-together.

Munster chiefs have confirmed Mike Sherry and Niall Ronan face lengthy spells on the sidelines following surgery on knee injuries.

Damien Varley, who was a late withdrawal from the Scarlets match due to illness, is continuing with his recovery but is not expected to train until later in the week. He will need to get at least one good session in prior to Friday’s game to be considered. Ian Keatley (hip/dead leg) returned to limited training yesterday after being rested last week while Paddy Butler (thumb) returned to full training and Simon Zebo (foot) continues with his own rehabilitation running.

But Connacht boss Pat Lam also has plenty of concerns ahead of the clash with the table-toppers. Dave McSharry sprained his ankle in Saturday’s 14-11 win over Newport Gwent Dragons while flanker Jake Heenan suffered a shoulder strain at the Sportsground and is a major doubt. Sligo-born hooker Sean Henry missed last week’s game due to a neck strain and remains unavailable this week.

Meanwhile, Niall Scannell took the first big step towards a long and successful career with Munster in the Rabo victory over Scarlets.

The highly rated Scannell was drafted into the match-day squad as back up to fellow rookie Duncan Casey, following the withdrawal through illness of Damian Varley but he was quickly into the action.

The 20-year-old, who captained Munster A this season, was on the pitch within minutes of the start when Casey was helped off with a head injury, and it gave him the opportunity to prove his pedigree.

“I was just lucky to get the call and to get so much game time. It was very unfortunate to see Duncan get injured, so I was lucky to get the opportunity and I hope I took it to the best of my ability. It was an outstanding experience, the level was so high and I was just happy to be part of such a special game where we had to grind it out in the end.

“We knew they [Scarlets] would be a competitive team and the whole league is so competitive. They beat us twice last year, we figured they would come at us and we had a lot to rectify after losing to them last year.

“The belief the lads are building [is huge] because we are winning, and it’s just because we have that trust and faith in each other that we’ll be there for the 80 minutes. I think the guys have shown for the last two weeks that they can do that.”

His first game done and dusted, victory achieved, Scannell is hoping to be involved on Friday.

“That would be nice. It’s a very competitive league and we won’t be taking anybody for granted, not least Connacht. We know it’s going to be a tough ask so we’ll relax, recover and be ready to come out after Christmas to play a very good side.”

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