Ben Healy ruled out of Munster’s tough away day against Clermont

Stephen Larkham says Joey Carbery is progressing well but will not play before new year

Johann van Graan's ire over the roughing up by Harlequins has been compounded by 21-year-old outhalf Ben Healy being ruled out of Munster's daunting Heineken Champions Cup pool game away to Clermont Auvergne this Saturday.

Healy will be sidelined with a shoulder injury which he sustained in last Sunday's 21-7 win over Harlequins at Thomond Park for two to four weeks. Van Graan described the late hits by Alex Dombrandt, for which he was one of three away players sinbinned in the game, and Joe Marler, which merely led to a penalty, as "unacceptable".

However, attack coach Stephen Larkham maintained: "I think it was frustrating at the time but we've kind of moved on from that now. It's definitely frustrating for Ben to be missing games on the back of that but I think the guy spent his time in the bin and the game handled it quite well."

Nor did Larkham have any qualms about the protection afforded Healy by referee Pascal Gauzère.


“I think the ref did a good job. Yeah, [we] reviewed it, had a good chat about it and, I think, he made the right decision.”

Healy had replaced JJ Hanrahan for the final quarter and the likelihood is that he will start again, with one of the other academy outhalves as back-up.

"We've still got a number of 10s. We've got Jack Crowley, Jake Flannery, JJ, Joey [Carbery] is not right at the moment, but we've still got Rory Scannell who can play there as well and has been a back-up for us before in big games. So we've still got four guys to choose from."

Larkham did have a relatively positive update on Carbery, who last played for Munster on January 3rd.

“He’s training exceptionally well but we just don’t want to make the same mistakes that we’ve made in the past. Everything is tracking well, the timeframe is still unsure, but he’s ticking everything off in terms of his longer-term plan. It’s not going to be this year, we’re not expecting him to play this year or in the short-term, but his progress is going really, really well at the moment.”

Scottish head coach Gregor Townsend has remained coy about the possibility of Glasgow Warriors making a move for Healy but has admitted he is aware that the outhalf qualifies for Scotland through family roots.

While expressing the hope that Healy remains with Munster, were he is still on an academy contract and all negotiations regarding new IRFU contracts have been suspended by the Union until the New Year. Conor Murray revealed: "There are plenty of jokes in the gym and a few anthems being played for a bit of craic.

“Obviously, all we can do is speak for ourselves here and, like I said, Ben has put credit in the bank with his performances and shown his stuff on a number of occasions.

“We want to keep our local players, the players we have brought up here ourselves, keep them within the squad and keep giving them opportunities. That goes for a lot of young players in the squad at the moment, so of course, we don’t want to lose him. We want to keep our own talent.”

Murray was also generous in his praise of Craig Casey. Regarding his rapidly improving understudy and rival for the Munster '9' jersey, he said: "He's an energetic player for sure. Whether he starts or comes onto the pitch, that's going to be infectious for the team and give everyone a bit of a lift. He's like that 24/7, Craig, he operates like that all the time.

“It’s great to see another Limerick nine pushing through the ranks. It’s similar to Ireland at the moment, there is really good competition for the number nine shirt and, to be honest, it’s really enjoyable. It’s competitive, it keeps you on your toes, it makes you make sure you’re not missing a beat, that you’re all over your stuff and you come into training knowing you have a competitive day in front of you, which is really good.

“Talking about Craig on his own, it’s great to see a Limerick nine coming through and the chances I’ve had through my career, it would be nice to see him do that but not just yet,” Murray quipped.

Munster are unbeaten this season but face into their toughest assignment in the campaign to date and Larkham said while the coaching ticket are gelling better this season, their attack remains a work in progress.

“As a coaching team, we’ve finally had a bit of time together. The combination is working really well, it has just taken a bit of time to find our rhythm and I wouldn’t say that one area has improved over the other areas. I think we’ve got a really good balance to the way we’re playing the game now. We’ve certainly got a very good defensive record.

“If I look at where our attack is – disappointed with some of the games in terms of not scoring enough points or tries, particularly last weekend. We felt we could have done a better job there, but that’s a work in progress.

“But we’re getting there. As a coaching group, we’re certainly gelling a lot better but every area can get better; roles and responsibilities around who is taking what area and where to put our focus. Normally when coaches come together for the first time, each coach wants to have his piece in the sun and we’ve got over that honeymoon period and we understand that we need to allot a certain amount of time to each coach, so I think we’re doing that a lot better. The planning has been a lot better.”

Jeremy Loughman (shoulder) and Niall Scannell (neck) have returned to full team training while Matt Gallagher underwent successful surgery last week and will now undergo rehabilitation, joining Alex McHenry (thumb), Neil Cronin (knee), Dave Kilcoyne (ankle), RG Snyman (knee) and Carbery (ankle) on the casualty list.