Munster are hoping JJ Hanrahan and Rhys Marshall successfully come through this week’s two main training sessions to have a chance of making their comebacks against Racing 92 at Thomond Park on Saturday.
The province will be looking to build on their bonus-point victory at Ospreys last Saturday as the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 4 campaign continues this weekend. Fly-half Hanrahan injured a hamstring in the PRO14 win over Ulster on November 9 and missed the trip to Ospreys while hooker Marshall has featured only twice this season and not since October 25 having struggled with a knee injury.
Munster said both players would be reintegrated to training this week, as senior coach Stephen Larkham said of the squad’s fitness profile:
Our injury list at the moment is actually pretty good, there's only five guys on the injury list. Touch wood, we keep those numbers pretty low throughout the rest of the season.
“JJ and Rhys are fully reintegrated back into training today, but it's the back end of their rehab programme, so we need to make sure that they come through today and then come through Thursday before they are considered for selection this weekend.”
Flanker Chris Cloete is continuing his return to play protocols following a failed Head Injury Assessment two weeks ago while those among the Munster casualties definitely ruled out of the Racing clash are Ireland loosehead Dave Kilcoyne (calf), wing Darren Sweetnam (hamstring), and fly-half Joey Carbery, whose ankle injury sustained on Ireland duty is being given every possible chance to recover fully before he is allowed to return to action.
Larkham said Carbery was “progressing really well”.
“They way I understand it is we are going to take it slow because there was a fair bit of damage there. He had a really good week last week, which is not to say it's going to happen again this week.
“Everything is on track for the timeline that we had given him in the first place. He's not playing this weekend, he's not ready. We'll reassess him next week to see how he goes and likewise the following week.”
Larkham also paid tribute to former All Blacks scrum-half Alby Mathewson, who is set to leave Munster after 15 months with the province, concluding with this Saturday’s European clash.
“It's a sad moment really for everyone here and obviously for Alby. We knew when we signed him that this was going to eventuate at some stage, it's just disappointing that it's happening right now.
“He has been a massive contributor to the team. His on-field performances have been amazing. He has played for the All Blacks and you can see why. He consistently performs week-in, week-out.
The biggest thing we are going to miss here is just his contribution to the young nines who we have got coming through.
“He is an excellent coach off the field. He is a super competitive person and that rubs off on everyone. But it is the work that he does behind the scenes with the nines, it will be more than missed within the organisation.”