Rassie Eramus is insistent Conor Murray will not be rushed back into service for Munster just to meet his British & Irish Lions deadline.
MUNSTER V CONNACHT
Saturday: Thomond Park, 5.15pm
Referee: TBC TV: TG4
The clock is ticking for the Ireland scrum-half to prove his fitness ahead of this summer’s Lions tour to New Zealand with head coach Warren Gatland having told the 28-year-old he would not be travelling if he did not have game time under his belt before the plane leaves for Auckland on May 29.
Having not played since March 10, when Murray suffered a stinger in his left shoulder during Ireland’s Six Nations loss to Wales in Cardiff, the scrum-half has been sidelined for seven weeks.
Were he not to make this Saturday’s Guinness PRO12 league finale at home to Connacht, the Munster star would have only one guaranteed game left in which to prove his case to the Lions boss, the province’s PRO12 semi-final on May 20.
Munster director of rugby Erasmus has a mounting injury list to deal with following the weekend’s bonus-point win at Treviso with leading try scorer Ronan O’Mahony ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken leg and lock/back-row Dave O’Callaghan awaiting scan results on a serious-looking knee injury.
Yet, if Murray is concerned the Lions clock is ticking and the pressure on him is mounting, Erasmus said yesterday he was unaware of such emotions.
“I think maybe Conor is conscious of that but he hasn’t been saying anything along those lines,” Erasmus said.
“I think it would be normal if he felt that way, it only comes around every four years but also you can’t be stupid. After this Lions series his rugby career is not over, you know, he’s got another few years to go.
“So, obviously that plays a role but that won’t rush him back. If we didn’t rush him back for (Champions Cup) semi-final in Ireland why would we now rush him back all of a sudden? It’s bad timing, like for Ronan O’Mahony to miss out now, to break a leg now just before a PRO12 semi-final and Connacht still to play.
"That’s just the way things go and I’m sure there will be other Lions players who will still get injured before the tour. That’s there, but we haven’t spoken about that.”
That said, Erasmus did yesterday sound more optimistic than previously about Murray’s return to fitness. “He is definitely progressing, he is getting better. I hope he gets a game in. There is definitely two to go, hopefully in one of those two (he’ll play).
"He’ll again be touch and go for this week. I can’t tell you, I haven’t actually seen him this morning. But last week he wasn’t ready to go. So we’ll see how he goes.
"Every week he contributes more in training sessions and he is doing more and more and more. And he has been ticking all the boxes, much slower than we hoped to, but he is ticking the boxes. Hopefully this week he gets to the end of the week and we can actually select him. So there is a chance, there is a chance.”
Asked if a place among the replacements at Thomond Park on Saturday evening would be a good step forward for Murray, Erasmus replied: “It would be, but just be careful to put a guy on the bench if you get an injury in the first 10 or 15 minutes and a guy has to play 70 minutes.
"We’ll have to really think about it. We’ve qualified for a home semi-final, which is important, not just for us but for the supporters to give them something back for their great support they have given us so far.
“But then you play Connacht, you play last year’s champions. Although you don’t want to lose this game you also want to manage players and get players some match fitness and maybe some players who are close to selection, give them some game time and then also gel the team... It’s an interesting week to manage.”
Erasmus added of the other injuries: “Ronan (O’Mahony) is definitely out for a while with a broken leg, so he will be out definitely for the rest of the season. Dave (O’Callaghan) will be going for a scan today, but I think we can be quite sure he will be also out. There might be a miracle, but I think he is also pretty serious, it will be a while.
With Jean Kleyn and Dave Foley already out for the rest of the season and loan signing Jean Deysel another lock sidelined, from the fractured ribs he suffered in the European loss to Saracens, the options in the second row have been further strained by illness to Billy Holland and a Head Injury Assessment for Donnacha Ryan, though Erasmus expects both to be fit to face Connacht. The same applies to Rory Scannell (concussion) and John Ryan (flu).
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