Conor Murray will be given every possible chance to prove his fitness to face Toulouse this Saturday, with Munster prepared to wait until the morning of the game to see if the Ireland scrum-half’s injured shoulder can heal.
With preparations under way for Munster’s biggest game in three seasons, a first European knockout fixture since 2013-14, the province’s normal protocols are being ignored in order to get their play-making number nine on the field to face the four-time European champions in a sell-out clash at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.
There are clearly some players worth breaking the rules for and Murray fits the bill, so integral is the 27-year-old to Munster’s success and the lack of experience in the squad to cover his absence.
Duncan Williams would replace him in the starting XV, but beyond that, director of rugby Rassie Erasmus would be looking to the lightly used Abrie Griesel, Angus Lloyd, or academy player John Poland as bench cover.
Murray was injured playing for Ireland against Wales on March 10, suffering a stinger to his left shoulder in contact with an on-rushing George North during the first half in Cardiff. His condition has see-sawed since, but he did not play Ireland’s Six Nations final-round game against England eight days later.
Murray returned to training at the University of Limerick yesterday, yet the nature of his injury is such that he will not take any contact this week.
“He’s definitely improved a lot, he’s going to train today in certain parts of the session,” Erasmus said. “Hopefully, he gets the function and power back to play on Saturday. We’ll give him until Saturday morning to hope that he can play.
“He’s feeling confident. Our policy is normally that if you can’t train on the Tuesday or at least two sessions in the week, we’re not going to play you on Friday or Saturday, even if you’re an international player, but as I said to the players, the gap between Conor and Duncan and the younger boys coming through, like Abrie and John Poland and Angus and those guys... it’s just a big occasion and some of them are still growing in that role, whereas in other positions we are really blessed that if a guy doesn’t train on a Tuesday we can put the next guy in.”
Munster’s other doubt is in the back row with Jack O’Donoghue suffering a hip flexor injury in the 50-14 win over Zebre, but Andrew Conway, withdrawn from that game with a stiff neck, is expected to be fit to return.
The good news for Munster is that fly-half Ian Keatley and centre Francis Saili are making better-than-expected recoveries from their respective knee problems and have not been ruled out of making a return this weekend, while loan signing Jean Deysel could be involved for a debut.
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