JJ Hanrahan remains a 'slight possibility' for Munster's European opener

Johann van Graan: 'We’ll give him every chance possibly for this weekend'

Following a scan for a hamstring injury, JJ Hanrahan remains a serious doubt for Munster as they face into their first European Champions Cup match against Ospreys at the weekend with just one regular outhalf available to them, Tyler Bleyendaal.

“Slight possibility still for the weekend,” said an optimistic Johann van Graan on Hanrahan’s availability.

“We’ll make a final call later in the week, otherwise hopefully next weekend. It’s not serious, that’s great news, that it’s not going to be long term. We’ll give him every chance possibly for this weekend, otherwise the next and we’ll just reassess as we go. But it’s not serious.”

Hanrahan injured his hamstring in Munster Pro 14 win over Ulster at the weekend, likely leaving room for Bleyendaal to come in to start against the Welsh side in Liberty Stadium on Saturday. The 29-year-old finished out the match against Ulster in Thomond Park.

But the current shortage of No 10s did not unsteady the coach or Irish flanker Peter O’Mahony, who cited scrumhalf Conor Murray and centre Rory Scannell, as two players who could, at a push, also slot into the outhalf position.

“You have guys like Rory and Murr who can cover 10,” said O’Mahony. “Whoever steps in and gets the chance will be more than capable.”

But Van Graan was even more effusive about the New Zealand-born Bleyendaal, who has overcome serious injury to prolong his career with the province.

“He doesn’t say a lot but he is one of those guys when he says nothing it is immediately respected and people know it is coming from a good place. He is one of our leaders,” explained van Graan.

"Certain small things, the way he embraced Joey Carbery when Joey came in last year. It is always about the team for him. The way that he and JJ Hanrahan worked together at the start of the season, each having two games, two games, two games. JJ started the season with two games, then Tyler played two, then JJ unfortunately got injured. So we had a fair load sharing between the 10s.

“He wants to move his rugby forward. He has got big dreams for himself. He has a young family now. He is just a fantastic individual, absolute pleasure to coach him.”

Another casualty

Van Graan is also likely to be without Chris Cloete. The South African flanker was still suffering from symptoms following an HIA on Monday and is unlikely to be available for Saturday’s match.

Dave Kilcoyne is another casualty. The Irish prop injured himself in a scrum at training and is likely to be missing for a number of weeks.

“Yeah, Chris won’t be available for this week,” explained the coach. “He still had some symptoms on Monday and with any HIA, it’s very important that we look after him well. So we’ll just keep assessing him until he becomes available again.

“Dave Kilcoyne will be out for the few weeks, he picked up an injury in the scrum, hopefully not long term. But definitely not available for selection this week.”

The Munster coach was reticent about the fitness of Joey Carbery saying only that the Munster medical staff were taking it day by day with the Irish outhalf. If anything another layer of mystery was added to the ongoing mystery.

“We are just taking it day-by-day with him,” said van Graan. “It is within the group now. It is still going to be some time. As soon as we know more you guys will be the first to know.”