Peter O’Mahony is good to go and lead Munster against Glasgow Warriors in Saturday’s Guinness Pro12 final in Belfast but serious doubts remain about two other current Irish team members, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo, with medical reports awaited on them today.
Although head coach Anthony Foley wasn’t quite as dogmatic about the state of his captain’s damaged hip flexor, O’Mahony went a long way towards reassuring the Red Army after yesterday’s squad session at Thomond Park.
“Yeah, I will make the weekend,” said O’Mahony. “It was touch and go last week, but I came through. I was more sensible than anything in that we had just scored a try and I was feeling a bit sore when I came off. I took today off because of the week that’s in it and I’ll be fine for Saturday. Today, it was feeling good but the rest of the body was a bit sore... kind of the joys of this time of the year when you’re performing at 90% at best.”
The news concerning Conor Murray is nothing like as positive and unless the Lions star has somehow made a remarkable recovery from the medial knee ligament he damaged against the Ospreys last week, then Duncan Williams will be sporting the No.9 jersey from the outset in Belfast, with Cathal Sheridan on the bench.
Foley said: “Conor Murray got a scan yesterday and he is gone up to Ray Moran to have it read and we will know from there whether he can train on Thursday. Any of our players that get a knee injury, we like to get Ray to have a look at them as he is the best in the business. We get an assessment from there.
“We have all seen the impact (of Dan Lydiate’s tackle on Murray). It’s not a nice sight when you freeze-frame it so we will hold out hope but we have Duncan Williams who has come in and done a great job for us this year when Conor and again when he came on to the pitch at the weekend. Duncan is there and Cathal Sheridan who has been injured for a lot of the season is back fit. We will be able to promote him up the line.”
Head injuries and concussion are an everyday topic in modern-day rugby, with Simon Zebo the latest to be observing the game’s understandably strict protocols. “Simon stayed in Cork to go through his return to play protocols,” Foley explained. “He has passed his impact test and what he has to do now is different levels of exercise and see if the symptoms come back. If they come back, he will be ruled out but at the moment he is at the stage where he has done exercise and he has no symptoms so he will move on to heavier work tomorrow.”
Having soldiered for many years as team-mates and combined their experience to telling effect since Foley’s retirement and subsequent ascent to the top of the Munster coaching tree, neither Paul O’Connell, Foley, the players and anyone associated with the team will allow the fact that this is likely to be the great second-row’s last appearance in the red jersey to distract them from the job on hand.
“Look, I think it goes back to the fact that it’s an occasion, there are a lot of players who won’t play for Munster again,” Foley pointed out.
“There are a few there who will be togging out again, a few who won’t but Paul has done above and beyond for the province, for Young Munster and for Ireland.“It wasn’t spoken about last week, it hasn’t been mentioned this week. I think everyone’s intelligent enough to understand the situation, to go about doing their job. If we all do our jobs to the best of our ability, we’ll get the outcome we deserve.”
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