Munster director of coaching Tony McGahan is hopeful Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray and Donnacha Ryan will be fit to face Ulster in 11 days, despite having to plan without all three Ireland internationals for Saturday’s RaboDirect Pro12 clash with Leinster.
The Test trio were omitted from the 28-man squad announced yesterday for this weekend’s top-of-the-table showdown at Thomond Park, instead remaining on an injury list that currently contains 16 players.
While O’Connell was not expected back this weekend following the knee ligament injury he sustained against France on March 4, both Murray and Ryan had been earmarked for a role in the second of three inter-provincial matches culminating with an Easter Sunday Heineken Cup quarter-final at home to Ulster. Murray had a three- to four-week recovery period for the bone bruising he suffered against France on his right knee while Ryan has not fully overcome the bang to his shoulder he took against Scotland on March 10.
“Paul and Conor have probably been the most notable injuries through the Six Nations campaign,” McGahan said. “Donnacha has had a bit of a shoulder issue for the last two weeks of the Six Nations and there’s no chance of risking him at this stage with the Ulster quarter-final ahead.
“But we’re hopeful the three of them will be available [for the quarter-final].”
O’Connell’s resolve to overcome the medial cruciate ligament damage in his left knee was such that the coach was backing him to pull through.
“With Paul’s determination and healing powers it would take a very significant injury for him to be kept out of a quarter-final at home,” McGahan said. “You saw the way he picked up the injury in the 60th minute [against France] and played through for the last 20 minutes. I’m sure he’ll do everything in his power to make sure he’s fit.”
Munster’s injury list also saw lock Ian Nagle (ankle) and wing Luke O’Dea (head) added in the wake of last Saturday’s hard-earned league victory over Connacht in Galway. Another, longer-term casualty on the list, however, had some good news after lock Dave Foley joined veteran scrum-half Peter Stringer in signing one-year contract extensions. Stringer’s deal means a return to the fold for the 34-year-old next season after loan spells with Saracens and, currently Newcastle while McGahan backed the decision of Foley, 23, to decline a two-year extension.
“If you’re asking me why that is I would say it’s because Dave is backing himself to make a real fist of his last year,” he said.
MUNSTER SQUAD (v Leinster): Forwards: W du Preez, M Horan, J Ryan, S Archer, BJ Botha, D Fogarty, M Sherry, D Varley, Donncha O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll, B Holland, Dave O’Callaghan, D Wallace, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan, P O’Mahony; Backs: D Williams, T O’Leary, R O’Gara, I Keatley, S Zebo, D Barnes, L Mafi, K Earls, D Hurley, J Murphy, S Deasy, F Jones.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved