Munster boosted by Conor Murray return ahead of Champions Cup opener 

Murray has not played since pulling up with a groin problem on his 100th Ireland Test appearance last month against South Africa.
Munster boosted by Conor Murray return ahead of Champions Cup opener 

RETURN: Conor Murray of Munster. Pic: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Conor Murray has boosted Munster’s selection options for Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup pool opener at home to Toulouse by returning to full training following injury.

Murray, 33, has not played since pulling up with a groin problem on his 100th Ireland Test appearance last month against South Africa but the British & Irish Lions scrum-half is now back in the mix for selection as Munster prepare to avenge the French giants for least season’s European quarter-final exit on penalty kicks at Aviva Stadium.

Murray was on the goal-kickers alongside fly-halves Joey Carbery and Ben Healy in that agonising shoot-out loss but has started only twice for his province in four appearances this season with Craig Casey shouldering the bulk of responsibility at number nine with support from the in-form Paddy Patterson.

There was further encouraging news for head coach Graham Rowntree as he looks to build on Munster’s gathering momentum after a shaky start to his tenure in terms of early-season URC results, sparked by a November victory over South Africa A and subsequent victories over Connacht and at Edinburgh last Friday.

Full-back Mike Haley is line to return to training this week also if he completes, as expected, his return to play protocols following a head injury in the derby win over Connacht 10 days ago.

Haley missed the trip to Edinburgh, which Munster won with a bonus point to climb to eighth in the table, but his back-three replacement Simon Zebo in that 38-17 victory has been ruled out for this Sunday’s Thomond Park showdown with Toulouse.

Munster said on Tuesday that the former Ireland wing had sustained a low-grade knee injury at Edinburgh, which appeared to have happened as he finished a well-taken but disallowed try scored long after play had been brought to a halt. Zebo will begin rehabilitation with the medical department, his province said, and will be “unavailable for the coming weeks”.

Zebo joins a casualty list also including fellow wing Andrew Conway (knee), tighthead props Stephen Archer (ankle) and Keynan Knox (knee), second-row quartet Tom Ahern (shoulder), RG Snyman (knee), Fineen Wycherley (shoulder) and Paddy Kelly (head), as well as back-rowers Jack Daly (knee) and Jack O’Sullivan (knee).

Rowntree is set to name his starting line-up and replacements on Friday at noon.

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