Munster are holding out hope that JJ Hanrahan will pass fit to face Ospreys in their Heineken Champions Cup pool opener in Wales on Saturday but the province will definitely be without Dave Kilcoyne for the first two rounds at least of the European campaign.
Head coach Johann van Graan will also be without flanker Chris Cloete following a failed Head Injury Assessment last Saturday, for the trip to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium when Munster will embark on a pool phase that will also pit them against Racing 92 and defending champions Saracens in the coming weeks.
Yet whether fly-half Hanrahan crosses the Irish Sea later this week remains in the balance with van Graan prepared to wait for the in-form Kerryman as long as possible before making a decision.
Hanrahan was withdrawn before half-time in Munster’s Guinness PRO14 derby win over Ulster last Saturday in Limerick, adding to van Graan’s issues at fly-half with first-choice Joey Carbery also ruled out indefinitely due to an ankle injury suffered on World Cup duty with Ireland.
“He got a scan,” van Graan said today, “slight possibility still for the weekend, we'll make a final call later in the week, otherwise hopefully next weekend.
It's not serious, that's great news, that's not going to be long-term, so we'll give him every chance possible for this weekend, otherwise the next, and we'll just reassess as we go, but it's not serious.
Loosehead prop Kilcoyne sustained a calf injury in training last Thursday and, said the Munster boss, “will be out for the next few weeks”.
“He picked up an injury in the scrum, hopefully not long-term. But definitely not available for selection this week.
“Chris (Cloete) won't be available for this week, he still had some symptoms on Monday and with any HIA, it's very important that we look after him well. So we'll just keep assessing him until he becomes available again.”
With Carbery out and Hanrahan a doubt, Munster are likely to plan around Tyler Bleyendaal as their starting number 10 and captain Peter O’Mahony sang the New Zealand-born fly-half’s praises.
“He's a class act, he's very very cool,” O’Mahony said of Bleyendaal. “Delivers messages excellently. Obviously a very good footballer and just runs the game really really well.
“Look, there's huge competition there. You know, JJ is still in the mix, he got a knock last weekend, you have guys like Rory (Scannell) and Murr (Conor Murray) who can cover 10. Whoever steps in and gets the chance will be more than capable.”