Munster have received a welcome boost ahead of Sunday’s Champions Cup opener at Castres with Rassie Erasmus giving positive fitness updates on Jean Kleyn and Simon Zebo.
Lock Kleyn is recovering from a minor neck injury sustained in the defeat at Glasgow Warriors a fortnight ago, compounding a second-row injury crisis which has seen Gerbrandt Grobler, Darren O’Shea, Dave O’Callaghan, and Sean O’Connor also sidelined while Fineen Wycherly is currently suspended.
Yet director of rugby Erasmus said his South African compatriot had a 70% chance of making the flight to France this weekend while also giving Ireland wing/full-back Zebo the green light to make his first start of the season after three runs off the bench.
If Kleyn continues to improve he will go straight into the second row while Zebo is in a selection battle with Andrew Conway, Darren Sweetnam, Alex Wootton and JJ Hanrahan for the 14 and 15 jerseys, Erasmus having already pencilled in Keith Earls to retain the left-wing berth in the Munster back three following his two-try return to the side in the 23-17 defeat at Leinster on Saturday.
“Simon looks good,” Erasmus said yesterday. “He’s going to train today. He’ll be good to go.
“Jean Kleyn is positive. I think there is a 70% chance if he gets through the whole week, he will be good to go. There is doubt still but I think he will be good to go.”
Given the importance of Sunday’s fixture, round one of Munster’s Champions Cup pool campaign, Erasmus was asked if Kleyn would be risked if it remained a 70/30 call.
“I think we will probably push it a little bit. It’s an important game, the first one, without obviously harming the guy.”
After fielding an experimental backline at Aviva Stadium last Saturday, Erasmus said a more settled backline would be re-installed with Bleyendaal the likely out-half and Rory Scannell confirmed in a midfield partnership with Chris Farrell.
There is also little doubt that Peter O’Mahony will lead the team a week after his tense post-match interview with TG4’s Reggie Corrigan, the former Leinster and Ireland prop.
Corrigan’s asked O’Mahony whether the Munster players had given enough in terms of intensity during the derby fixture leaving the Ireland and Lions flanker visibly confused and annoyed, his defence of team-mates thoroughly endorsed yesterday.
“We work closely together, for the whole year, every day we’re in each other’s faces, so if we can’t stand up for each other, who’s going to stand up for us?” CJ Stander said.
“Pete did exactly that. There are different ways to interpret the interview and different ways to go at it, but he stood up and, what we thought was right in the moment, he did it. We all back him.
“That’s what we stand for, that’s our work-rate. We pride ourselves on our work-rate and knowledge of the game and what we want to do.
“You could look at the GPS and that (game) has been up there with the most intensive games we’ve had, one of the toughest games we’ve played in — ‘longest ran’ and high-intensity effort — so if someone saw it differently then...”
Erasmus, who saw clips of the interview, queried Corrigan’s line of questioning, saying “I really don’t think it was a matter of intensity, it was maybe a matter of indiscipline but, obviously, if Pete feels that way about it.
“We look at our GPS stats and we look at the effort the players put in and it was definitely not through a lack of intensity.
“You have just lost a game and somebody asks you a question like that and that is how he felt at the moment so I don’t think it was a big deal. He just said what he feels.
“I don’t know the guy who asked the questions and maybe he meant it in a nice way of asking questions. I didn’t hear it, but I don’t understand why anyone would ask a question like that because no-one would say ‘yes, we lacked intensity’.
“So, let’s put that one behind us if we can.”
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