Gavin Coombes leads a trio of Munster players returning to training this week but the province will have to plan without Damian de Allende and Simon Zebo for this Saturday’s crucial United Rugby Championship clash with Leinster at Aviva Stadium.
Head coach Johann van Graan is also sweating on the availability of captain and flanker Peter O’Mahony and full-back Mike Haley following the bruising European quarter-final defeat to Toulouse on penalty kicks nine days ago, Munster said in an injury update on Monday.
The province travels to Dublin this weekend needing victory in the final round of regular season games to be sure of a home draw in the URC play-offs next month. Munster occupy second placed behind Leinster, who are already assured of top spot, but are level on points with the Sharks in third and the Stormers in fourth.
Ulster and the Bulls are also in a position to overtake van Graan’s side if results do not go his way.
Defeat at the Aviva to the defending champions and Heineken Champions Cup finalists could send Munster into an away quarter-final, potentially in South Africa and there was mixed news from the camp in terms of injuries.
No.8 Coombes will return to training this week alongside openside flanker Chris Cloete (head) and fellow back-rower Jack O’Sullivan (knee) having recovered from the ankle surgery he underwent following an injury at home to Leinster at the start of April.
Yet both centre de Allende and wing Zebo have definitely been ruled out. South African World Cup winner de Allende is being treated for a chest injury while Zebo, who was removed for a Head Injury Assessment during extra time of the Toulouse game is currently being managed for a chest/rib injury.
There are doubts of the availability of Haley, who failed an HIA in the Toulouse game and is progressing through the return to play protocols before a decision on his involvement against Leinster is made later in the week.
O’Mahony was also removed from that game, in which he was named man of the match, with a persistent stinger and Munster said their captain will be managed through the week.
There looks to be no immediate returns for flanker John Hodnett (knee), Tadhg Beirne (thigh) or RG Snyman (knee) while scrum-half Neil Cronin sustained an ankle injury in training last week and was set to undergo a scan on Monday.
Prop James French will reintegrate to rugby training on his journey back from a knee injury, the province said.