Conor Murray may miss Reds’ big Toulouse battle

Conor Murray remains a doubt for Munster’s Champions Cup quarter-final with Toulouse on April 1 with the province uncertain how quickly the scrum-half will recover from the shoulder injury suffered on Ireland duty.

On a day when Munster revealed both All Blacks centre Francis Saili and Ireland fly-half Ian Keatley will miss the European showdown at Thomond Park in 11 days through injury and locks Jean Kleyn and Dave Foley were ruled out for the rest of the season, director of rugby Rassie Erasmus yesterday also expressed his concern that key figure Murray, 27, could join the casualty list.

The scrum-half, who was yesterday named with Munster and Ireland team-mate CJ Stander among 12 nominees for the 2017 RBS 6 Nations Player of the Championship award, missed last Saturday’s final-round clash with England due to a stinger in his left shoulder suffered during the previous week’s loss to Wales.

The news on Keith Earls’s bruised shin, sustained in the first half of the epic victory over England, was more optimistic though as an Ireland regular he will join Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan, Stander and Murray on the sidelines for Saturday’s Guinness PRO12 trip to Zebre following their Six Nations exertions.

Fellow internationals Peter O’Mahony, man of the match last Saturday, John Ryan and Andrew Conway, who replaced Earls for his Test debut, will all be available for the trip to Italy, if selected.

Murray, though, is the chief concern ahead of the visit of four-time European champions Toulouse, with the nature of his stinger injury leaving Erasmus unable to predict his recovery time. The scrum-half had sustained the knock tackling George North 29 minutes into the Wales game in Cardiff and finished the first half. He was showing enough signs of a recovery that he was sent back out for the second half, though a further bang saw him withdrawn after 46 minutes.

Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus yesterday expressed concern that Conor Murray could join the casualty list as Munster gear up for Champions Cup quarter-final with Toulouse. Picture: Donall Farmer

Murray was last week initially cleared to face England, only to fail a fitness test on Thursday morning and Munster are in a similar limbo as to his next availability.

“I guess it’s the same as what Rory Scannell had a few months back (in September),” Erasmus said. “It can be a week thing, it can be two weeks, three weeks. Rory’s took four weeks.

“They are not exactly the same, it depends on the moment he gets all his power and movement right and then he can play again. Hopefully he makes it by next week. It is difficult to say this week if he will make it, it is just one of those things.”

The decision by Ireland to let Murray continue after half-time against Wales was met with some criticism yet Erasmus said he understood the player’s desire to play on.

“If you play for your country, I guess that’s why you want to play to the end. You are playing for Ireland and trying to beat Wales away from home. You’d do anything to try and stay on the pitch, although for us maybe at Munster you’d think ‘come off’ and rest and be healthy again. But playing for his country he wanted to stay on the field. I guess that says a lot about him.

“At the moment he has got an injury that can get worse if he plays. We’ll take it day by day. He is always a guy that you’ll give a chance till the Thursday or Friday before the game to see if he can get fit.”

As for the rest of the Irish contingent, Erasmus was waiting to hear from the IRFU as to who precisely was available for selection this weekend in Parma and actually received a phone call from Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt during yesterday’s press conference, though he declined to answer in front of the assembled journalists.

Of Earls and his bruised shin, the South African added: “It doesn’t look too serious but we’ll only see him, I think he is coming back Friday. He is only due to train next Monday. I don’t think it will be too serious to keep him out of next week, out of the quarter-final.”

Saili (knee) and Keatley (knee) were both injured against Cardiff on March 4 and Erasmus said he expected them to be out for “the next three or four weeks”. Kleyn had neck surgery last week while Foley will undergo wrist surgery tomorrow, the same day Munster are expecting short-term loan signing Jean Deysel to arrive in Limerick on a short-term contract from South Africa’s Sharks.

Loosehead prop James Cronin (finger) and back Alex Wootton (shoulder) will return to full training this week.

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