Munster have received a potential double boost to their Heineken Cup double-header preparations with Perpignan next month with the possible return of Ireland duo Donnacha Ryan and Keith Earls after injury.
Both players were ruled out of Ireland’s Autumn Tests against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand with Ryan damaging knee ligaments in Munster’s European pool game against Gloucester on October 19 and initially ruled out for 10 weeks, taking his recovery up to the new year.
Earls, meanwhile, went down with another knee condition, patella tendonitis, on the eve of Munster’s league trip to Glasgow a week later.
The winger was being treated by national team medics in camp at Carton House and yesterday was ruled out of the Test with the All Blacks.
Munster head coach Rob Penney, though, reported both men were on the mend with Earls expected back in the fold within a fortnight, ahead of the province’s round three home pool game against Perpignan on December 8 and Ryan also ahead of schedule.
“Donnacha Ryan’s back on his feet and getting back into a bit of activity,” Penney said yesterday after Munster trained ahead of their return to RaboDirect Pro12 action at Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
“It’s low intensity at the moment and he’s had a pretty good report form the specialist. The timeline’s not sure but it just depends on how he reacts to the increased level of activity.
“He should be [back] before Christmas, it could be much sooner. It just depends on any repercussions from his activity. Earlsy’s responded really well to the treatment he got around the early part of the national camp; responded really well from the freshening, being off his feet, and he could be back in the next couple of weeks.”
Penney also brought news of Munster’s other long-term casualties, Simon Zebo (broken metatarsal in his foot) and Tommy O’Donnell (hyper extended knee).
“Zeebs is progressing well. The bone’s knitting nicely and the specialist’s really pleased with that because that can be a massive area of concern if the knitting’s not taking place in the foot because of the shortage of blood supply down there. it can be a very niggly injury. So at this point it’s all really positive.
“He doesn’t need to have an operation to have a screw put in or anything like that but he’s probably still a month or six weeks away from being in our frame.
“Tommy’s another one that’s progressing really well. His timelines were around, maybe, Christmas time, but he’s probably maybe a week a so ahead of schedule in terms of that. From what could have been a pretty nasty rehab process, it’s gone really smoothly for him.”
More immediately, Penney ruled out newly-arrived South African wing Gerhard van der Heever, centre James Downey and fly-half Ian Keatley from the league leaders’ trip to Cardiff Arms Park and a first run on the Welsh region’s 4G synthetic turf pitch.
“It shouldn’t be more than a week [out],” Penney said of the new signing, while Downey pulled up in training with an “irritated groin injury” and Keatley’s issue was a long-standing one.
“Ian’s just got a bit of soreness in his hip/groin that he’s had ongoing for about six weeks and we’re working through a process with the medical team to try and get him right because he hasn’t quite been 100% for a while and it’s been hindering him.”
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