Zebo and Conway get fitness deadline

Simon Zebo at Munster training at UL yesterday.

Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway will be given until tomorrow’s final heavy training session to prove their fitness for next Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulon.

Munster’s backline options have been stretched to breaking point by a series of injuries, the most recent of which saw inside centre Rory Scannell fail a Head Injury Assessment during the second half of last Saturday’s 19-7 PRO14 win over Scarlets at Thomond Park.

Scannell yesterday continued his return-to-play protocols but the province will definitely be without flanker Tommy O’Donnell, who suffered a recurrence of an AC joint injury in his shoulder during the game but with Keith Earls, Jaco Taute, Chris Farrell, Tyler Bleyendaal, and Duncan Williams all ruled out of the Munster backline for the visit of the three-time European champions this weekend, head coach Johann van Graan will be desperately hoping his back-three stars Conway and Zebo can pass fit to face the French all-stars.

Zebo, who suffered a hamstring issue in the loss at Edinburgh on March 16, is believed to have a better chance of facing Toulon than Conway, who has not played since injuring a knee against Castres in January, yet neither were due to train fully yesterday in Limerick and van Graan insisted neither would feature unless they were completely fit.

“If they are 100% right, we will play them, if they are not 100% right, we won’t play them,” the Munster head coach said yesterday.

In big games you need guys that are 100% ready. I know different players play with a different, let’s call it ‘appreciation of pain’.

“Some guys can play through pain and some can’t so we’ll leave it to the individual and if the individual and our medical team deem them fit and they convince us on the training field that they are ready, we are going to pick them. If not, we’re just going to go with the next guy in line and back that player.

It’s 50/50 at this stage, you know, they haven’t trained with the team. Andrew hasn’t trained with us since the Castres game so I’m looking forward to training and some of our players will only return to training on Tuesday and Wednesday and unfortunately it’s just the way it is we don’t have that many options available so we’ll pick who’s available on Friday, adapt our week a small bit and go with our best team.

Munster’s two main training days are today and tomorrow before a day off on Thursday ahead of Friday’s captain’s run and light session, and van Graan said he would have to make a decision on both Zebo and Conway after tomorrow’s second heavy session.

“I think leaving it to Thursday or Friday is too late. We’ve got a training week of Monday to Wednesday and now we’ve to get through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, you’ve to train at some stage of the training week. That would be too much of a gamble to leave a guy up to Friday.

“If it was a guy with a bump or a bruise who had played every single game but not a guy coming back from injury, you need them to be part of team training. We need guys who are 100% ready to go. So I guess Wednesday is the cut-off date.”

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