Murray worry for Sarries game but Stander has ‘good chance’

Conor Murray remains a doubt for Munster’s Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens on Saturday afternoon according to the province’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.

Murray worry for Sarries game but Stander has ‘good chance’

Though Erasmus is hopeful Tyler Bleyendaal, Donnacha Ryan, CJ Stander, and Darren Sweetnam will be fit for the clash with the Premiership giants, he is far from upbeat about the availability of scrum-half Murray along with Rory Scannell, who sustained a serious ankle injury in Saturday’s PRO12 victory over Ulster.

“Conor got a stinger on his shoulder and it is just taking longer to heal,” said Erasmus.

“There are so many things that still need to happen in his career and even this year alone. Although I would really like to play him every Saturday, he is just not healing fast enough.”

On the plus side, Erasmus stated Stander “has a relatively good chance of making it”, with the player himself positive about his fitness. With Murray’s situation so precarious, Duncan Williams was withdrawn from the PRO12 clash with Ulster due to a minor groin injury.

“If it was Saracens this week, Duncan would definitely have played,” said Erasmus reassuringly.

Darren Sweetnam joined the walking wounded within the first minute of the Ulster clash leaving Erasmus to accept: “You could see immediately see he needed to go for a HIA.”

Many expressed surprise Erasmus fielded such a strong side against Ulster on Saturday, but the man himself saw things differently.

“When you are going into a really tough game, it is good to have one the previous week,” he argued. “Last week we rested a few guys and made 11 changes. I see Saracens picking almost a B side for (Sunday). It’s just coaches having different philosophies. I’d rather have a game like this against quality opposition. But then Saracens will be five steps up, it won’t be like this.”

The fact that Ian Keatley came through the Ulster game without any problems and that Francis Saili and Jaco Taute played together two weeks ago and could do so again profitably in the now likely absence of Rory Scannell is a boost for Erasmus. But he was also quick to underline the extent of the challenge lying in wait at the Aviva on Saturday.

“We are up against it next week,” he stressed.

“We will give ourselves a proper chance and see how far we have grown in nine months. I am not one of those guys who always want to be the underdog. I don’t believe in that, but this is a massive challenge next week. We take some confidence from Ireland beating England at the Aviva, but won’t be bluffed by that or fooling ourselves that it will win us the game.

“Saracens are double champions (European Cup and English Premiership) so I don’t think anyone can argue with that. That’s the team everyone has to aspire to be. On and off the field. It’s a well-known fact everything they do — player management, coaching staff, player recruitment — all of that, they are ahead of other teams. And pressure situations they have been used to in the last five, six years so I think they are the team to beat.”

Peter O’Mahony will captain Munster into the Saracens game with his personal game at such a high level that he is seen as a very strong candidate for the Lions tour when Warren Gatland’s squad is announced on Wednesday.

When asked if he will be watching Sky Sports to learn his fate, he quipped, “I’ll be training”, before addressing what lies ahead in the Aviva on Saturday and how Ireland’s win at the Aviva over an English team packed with Saracens is of little significance.

“It’s different teams, a different competition,” he reasoned. “The semi-final of Europe is going to be a different animal, but it’s always good to be competing for trophies and having plenty of rugby left at this time of the season.

“We have put ourselves in a position to play in the semi-final of Europe. You’ve got to do a huge amount of work, but you’ve got to enjoy doing it because these weeks don’t come around very often. Nobody’s unbeatable, but you’ve got to recognise and give credit to what Saracens have done and how good they are, the quality of player they have. But on the day, it’s two teams that take to the pitch.

Anything can happen, it’s the beauty of this competition and it’s why it’s so good. Form and momentum are huge in rugby and it’s very important for us to kick on with a win again (against Ulster).

“We’ve had some tough games and we have come out the right side of two and three pointers that we wouldn’t have last year and a couple of other years. That is very pleasing.”

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