Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony is set to make his long-awaited return for Munster for Saturday’s visit of Zebre to Thomond Park, director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has confirmed.
The Corkman hasn’t played since the World Cup at this time last year, and has been mooted for a return in recent weeks.
“This is the third or fourth week we have been saying ‘maybe next week’ but today’s training was checking him out to make sure he is ready,” said Erasmus.
“He came through and there is a good chance of him playing on Saturday. Tommy O’Donnell will also be in the team and also Simon Zebo. Donnacha Ryan is back from illness so although we are losing a few, there are a few also coming back.”
Erasmus also had reassuring news for club coaches when he confirmed that he would continue to release all fit players who weren’t required for his match-day 23 to play in the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League.
He was particularly impressed with the performance of Robin Copeland in Young Munster’s big win over Cork Constitution at Temple Hill last Saturday, when one of his two tries ranked among the finest ever scored in the competition by a forward.
The bad news for Munsters, though, the strength of that performance means that Copeland will be required by Munster.
“Anybody outside the match 23 and who isn’t bracketed among the injured will play for his club, that’s the plan,” said Erasmus.
“I think it worked out well for Robin and others as well. There’ll be one or two more this weekend.
“It looks like competition at club level is of a decent standard so it was wonderful for Copey to get that intensity of match fitness and obviously the attitude he went back with was excellent.”
Copeland will line out at some stage against Zebre in the Munster back-row alongside O’Mahony.
Difficulties over a work permit have been overcome and former Springbok centre, Jaco Taute, here on a temporary three month contract, will make his debut in the centre against Zebre.
On the negative side, injuries sustained by Jack O’Donoghue, Jean Kleyn and Dave O’Callaghan are being scanned and Darren O’Shea, Andrew Conway, Rory Scannell and Dave Foley won’t be available.
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