As they continue to manage three separate groups – those who stayed in the high-performance centre, those who returned from South Africa and those who are still there – Munster have at least been boosted by the return to full training of centre Chris Farrell.
The 28-year-old, 15-times capped Irish centre hasn’t played this season due to an abdominal injury but his return to full training bolsters their midfield options ahead of their scheduled opening match in the Heineken Champions, against Wasps in Coventry on Sunday week , December 12th.
Munster senior and academy players who didn't travel to South Africa have been training since Monday along with a number of the province's NTS (national talent squad) and PTS (provincial talent squad) members. The province's academy manager Ian Costello has been overseeing training.
In addition to Farrell, prop Roman Salanoa (knee) is also progressing closer to a return to training.
However, John Hodnett (ankle), Calvin Nash (ankle), Rowan Osborne (head), RG Snyman (knee) are all still long-term absentees. In addition, academy locks Paddy Kelly (hamstring) and Edwin Edogbo (Achilles) have both been ruled out of action for the coming months.
However, there has been a positive update for academy fullback Jonathan Wren as he has returned to training following a leg injury, while academy winger Conor Phillips is with the Ireland Men's Sevens development squad for this week's Dubai Invitational Tournament.
At a push therefore, Munster should have up to 18 EPCR-registered players in training next week as their preparations for the Wasps game heat up, including eight internationals.
The 18 players are – *denotes academy player – hookers Declan Moore and Scott Buckley*, props David Kilcoyne, Roman Salanoa, and Mark Donnelly*, locks Tadhg Beirne and Eoin O'Connor* and backrows Peter O'Mahony and Daniel Okeke*, scrumhalves Conor Murray and Ethan Coghlan*, outhalf Joey Carbery, centres Damian de Allende, Keith Earls and Chris Farrell and back three players Andrew Conway, Conor Phillips* and Jonathan Wren*.
Munster then have until Wednesday to register additional players and it remains likely that they will supplement their squad from within the province, be it with three recent additions to their academy – the Young Munster fullback Patrick Campbell (19), the Garryowen out-half Tony Butler (19) and Cobh Pirates lock Edwin Edogbo (18) – and other All-Ireland League players.
As for Cardiff, the last of the four visiting URC teams whose games in South Africa were postponed, they have confirmed 42 of their 48-strong travelling party (bar six positive cases) are UK-bound after three failed attempts to exit South Africa.
Meanwhile, the fixtures for the 2022 Under-20 Six Nations have been confirmed, with the tournament returning to its traditional full window in February/March. All of Ireland's matches will be available on RTÉ and Virgin Media and it is the first time that broadcasters in Ireland will show the championship in its entirety.
Richie Murphy’s Ireland will host Wales in Musgrave Park on Friday, February 4th, then travel to France in round two on February 11th, before hosting Italy in Cork on February 25th.
In round four, England host Ireland on Saturday, March 12th before Murphy’s charges host France on ‘Super Sunday’, March 20th .