Munster are pursuing a number of overseas options to replace the stricken Peter O’Mahony in Munster’s European Rugby Champions Cup squad that needs to be finalised and announced by Thursday.
Skipper O’Mahony faces knee surgery in the next couple of weeks and will be out of action for several months. As if that wasn’t bad news enough for Munster, prop forward Stephen Archer will today undergo an operation to repair a bulging disc in his neck, a procedure that will also necessitate a long recuperation period.
To help alleviate the crisis, Munster head coach Anthony Foley is in negotiation with the Irish Rugby Football Union for permission to sign an overseas player to replace O’Mahony, particularly in light of another long-term injury to Tommy O’Donnell.
Yesterday, as Munster trained in Limerick, Foley also revealed he had enlisted Uruguayan prop forward Mario Sagario to come into the squad on a trial basis, but he also revealed it might be possible to hold onto Munster tight-head prop BJ Botha beyond his agreed contract period, which ends in the New Year.
“We are still looking into that. We have obviously only come across the Stephen Archer injury in the last week, so we are still working on a lot of that. We need to see after the operation, and see the time frame that is in it for Stephen once the operation happens.”
Losing Botha, based on his current contract, would be a severe blow given the player’s contribution to the province and Foley appeared hopeful that he may be able to hold onto the South African.
“We have the homegrown players (to replace Botha), unfortunately the problem is the injuries.”
As far as O’Mahony is concerned, Foley said: “The pressure is on. There are bodies there, candidates we are looking into.”
The coach reflected on Ireland’s disappointing exit from Rugby World Cup by saying that injuries took a huge toll. However, he didn’t have too many complimentary words for French referee Jerome Garces and suggested Argentina’s tight-head prop Ramiro Herrera should have been shown a red card for a second-half infringement, having earlier seen yellow.
“You can’t do that, and if it wasn’t a sanctionable offence why did he penalise him? It was something. There was three points in the game at that stage. That was a penalty that Ian Madigan missed but Ian was kicking very well throughout the game, so it is important that people aren’t hung out to dry in it.
“What told near the end was the injuries and the suspensions from the French game. There was a definite zip in the Argentinian’s finish in the game,” he said.
Ireland? “It would have been very easy for them to drop their heads when they were 17 points down, and think this is going to be another bad day, but in fairness to them they stood up to it and fought back. They did the hard thing.”
With their World Cup exertions over, Foley is looking forward to welcoming back four of the six Munster representatives from the squad. The injured Paul O’Connell is Toulon-bound and skipper O’Mahony is injured, but Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray will all be back in local camp from this week.
Foley is prepared to wait for all of the group to ready themselves for Pro12 and European action.
“They are on a flight (yesterday) at 3pm. I have only spoken to one of them so far but will be talking to all. Whether fellas are keen to come back, they are obviously suffering a massive disappointment so, I can understand if their heads aren’t in the right place,” he said.
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