Munster may have turned a corner following their emotion-fuelled victory over Stade Francais but in the background, injured fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal must still negotiate a steep curve of his own.
The New Zealander, signed from Canterbury in October 2014, having captained his country to an Under-20 world championship title and played for Super Rugby’s Crusaders, was yesterday stood down for 12 weeks’ rest and recovery from a torn tendon in his quad.
The news represents a further setback for Bleyendaal, 25, who did not arrive in the province until January last year following a serious neck injury suffered at Canterbury and only made his senior debut at the start of this season.
He managed three Guinness Pro12 games before trouble struck again, the Kiwi pulling up in the warm-up at Scarlets on October 23 complaining of tightness in his quad and has managed only 80 minutes of rugby since, against Newport Gwent Dragons and Leinster on December 27 when he started at fly-half but did no place kicking.
A return visit to medical specialists has now led Bleyendaal to step back from the game with head coach Anthony Foley hoping he will return to action before the end of the season.
“It’s rest and recovery and regrowth,” Foley said, ruling out the need for his player to undergo surgery.
Explaining the injury, Foley added: “It’s a tendon in his quad and we’ve been investigating it for a period of time. The tendon only fires up when you run at or close to 100% or when you kick the ball at full extension, because it’s a tendon than goes from the top of your hip to below your knee — it’s the only one in your body that crosses two joints... I’ll give you a lecture on it.
“The only sensation he would feel while he’s running is tightness. Tightness for a player isn’t the worst thing in the world but it kept going at him and it turns out that was the tendon tearing the whole time.
“He could run, he could train, he could kick the ball out of hand, he could do everything but the one thing that kept catching him was kicking off the tee.
“It came to a point where we sat down with a couple of specialists and the best advice they could give him was to give him 12 weeks to get it right.”
There was some good news for the head coach yesterday as preparations got under way in Limerick for Sunday’s Champions Cup pool finale at Treviso, with loosehead prop James Cronin available for the trip to Italy having returned to training following an ankle ligament injury suffered against Leinster at Christmas.
Cronin, who signed a three-year contract last week to keep him at Munster until June 2019, will be monitored for any adverse reaction from yesterday’s full training session before a decision is made on his availability but Foley was optimistic.
“He should be (available). He trained fully today. Again with everything, hopefully I won’t get a phone call tomorrow to say there’s a reaction.”
Full-back Andrew Conway remains a doubt having suffered a hip pointer injury against Stade Francais in Paris 10 days ago while inside centre Rory Scannell will continue his return to play protocols following a concussion suffered in last Saturday’s rebound win over the French champions, a victory that has made life in the Munster camp a lot more bearable after seven weeks f miserable form.
“It’s nice to see the boys get just reward for the effort they have put in over the last number of weeks, where they haven’t any credit because you don’t get the results,” Foley said. “It was good to see a full-blooded performance.
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