In the back of his mind, Munster head coach Anthony Foley must have been gravely concerned about the injury to his skipper Peter O’Mahony, who faces several months out of action.
O’Mahony, victim of what could be a serious knee injury, is back in Cork and awaiting surgery for the problem. That’s another significant blow for Foley, who might now have to persuade the IRFU to allow him sign another player of note in advance of the European campaign.
“Obviously Peter is going to be out for a period of time. It is not a week or two, so it is something that we have to deal with,” said Foley.
“That on top of Tommy O’Donnell is not ideal, but it gives other people opportunities and we have got to look at what we have from within and make sure we can sort it out. Hopefully, we can do that, but we will have a conversation with the IRFU as well, around whether we need to go and see what is out there.”
Munster play Cardiff Blues at Musgrave Park on Saturday but O’Mahony’s return to Cork is of no consequence in that respect, other than the fact he paid a visit to the training session in Cork IT yesterday. Foley said: “He will be getting his operation, they are not going to operate straight away, t will be another couple of weeks before that happens. But it was nice to see him back.”
Munster’s trials have not ended there, of course, having already lost another dynamic back row in Tommy O’Donnell of whom Foley said: “We are still looking into the early part of the New Year with Tommy. He got good news he didn’t need an operation so he is on the road to recovery. But he is a few months away.
“As for Peter, he was in our team meeting this morning. He was in looking at the French game, of course, and having a look at his own performance. It is going to be a frustrating period for him because it will really hit through for the boys who missed out next Sunday when Ireland run out against Argentina..”
Foley had words of comfort for the man at the centre of Munster’s success over 15 years, Paul O’Connell. Foley felt some of the pain Toulon-bound O’Connell felt as well: “No it doesn’t look good, not when a fella gets stretchered off like that and looks to be in an awful lot of pain. We are not medical people but we do realise it is going to be a bit of time before he is back on the pitch again.
“Obviously that probably signals the end of his career in terms of Ireland. It is sad in one respect, but for him to go out in the manner he went– it is probably fitting - he went out fighting for a ball on the ground and trying to get a turnover. He gave an excellent performance up to that. He was carrying ball, he was doing everything. Ireland’s line out was functioning well and they were going after the French line out at that stage. It set a tone for the game, for the boys to continue.”
Foley believes O’Connell could have been one of the inspirations for Ireland’s brilliant victory though: “You are looking around in the changing room. France probably thought they had the job done with Sexton gone off and Paulie being stretchered off.
“So, psychologically, if Ireland could have got their act together at half-time, which they did, they would have the edge in the second-half. And, fair play to the leaders within the group, and Joe and the coaches. The boys came out for the second-half and tore France apart. It is testament to the strength and depth in the squad, the involvement of the subs and probably all of the mental work they do in and around the squad to keep them prepared so they don’t fluctuate under pressure, or fluctuate with knock-backs.”
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