Mathewson a fresh injury doubt for Munster in Murray’s absence
Scrumhalf’s fitness a cause for concern with difficult Exeter Chiefs clash looming
Munster’s Alby Mathewson in action against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Munster have been hit with a fresh injury scare at scrumhalf in the build-up to their daunting Heineken Champions Cup opener away to Exeter Chiefs next Saturday, with head coach Johann van Graan admitting his concern that recent arrival Alby Mathewson will be ruled out of the game.
In the continuing and slightly mystifying absence of Conor Murray, the 32-year-old Mathewson is a major doubt for Munster’s European opener after suffering a knee injury seemingly in the act of scoring his first try for the province in their 30-22 defeat to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
“Yeah I’m worried about him,” said the Munster coach on Saturday evening. The four-times capped ex-All Black was only playing his second game for Munster, and second game since May, but Mathewson’s performance again suggested he could be an able deputy for Murray.
“I thought he was again excellent tonight. I thought his decision-making gave us an extra spark and I thought he managed the game really well tonight, and hopefully he’s going to be ready for the game next weekend,” said van Graan, although he looked and sounded none too optimistic.
As for Murray, who hasn’t played this season, van Graan seemed almost slightly irritable when asked if he hoped to have Murray back next week, or the week after when Munster host Gloucester.
“I can’t comment on Conor at this stage. As soon as we know anything I’ll let you guys know.”
The result continued Munster’s dismal run at the Aviva Stadium and means they remain pointless from their three away games this season, but this was easily the pick of their performances on the road.
“Like I said to the team, a loss is never good enough and we came here to win tonight and we expected from ourselves to win tonight. That’s what we aimed for and we came up short. But there’s such a lot of positives from this game and such a brilliant occasion. As a guy coming from a different country I was so proud of what was delivered out there tonight,” said van Graan of an occasion that drew 50,120 spectators.
“Unfortunately we are pretty disappointed with the result but to answer your question, a massive amount of positives and now coming up against a pretty decent opponent next week and a team that we’ve got a lot of respect for and also in brilliant form. So that was a good test for us tonight.”
Whereas Munster slipped to fourth in Conference A of the Guinness PRO14, Leinster maintained their healthy lead atop Conference B, although Cullen said they were very quick to park Saturday’s win given a six-day turnaround before hosting Wasps next Friday at the RDS. After making 11 changes, Leinster appear to be in rude health.
“Getting guys through was a big thing for us. So we are pleased we got a result and the players have come through the game from what the initial reports are at least,” said Cullen.
“Wasps are a team with so many threats as we have seen over the last couple of years,” he added, in reference to Leinster’s 33-6 defeat to Wasps in Cullen’s first European game as head coach three seasons ago.
“We have come unstuck against them in the RDS in the past so it is going to be a big week for us. Wasps played earlier today. They lost [35-21] to Gloucester, so we will see what kind of a team they had and what their players were accordingly. I know they were missing a couple of guys who are potentially going to come back this week. There is a very short turnaround. It is just so much in our minds. We said we would park this game very, very quickly and move to the challenge of next week.”