Peter O’Mahony a doubt for Exeter but van Graan has options
Injured captain’s chances of playing in Saturday’s Pool 2 showdown ‘50-50 at best’
Munster’s Peter O’Mahony leaves the field injured against Gloucester last weekend at Kingsholm Stadium, England. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
It is a measure of Munster’s improved strength in depth and relative wellbeing right now that in the event of Peter O’Mahony being ruled out of Saturday’s Pool 2 showdown with Exeter at Thomond Park (kick-off) 5.30pm), they have a number of options at their disposal.
While O’Mahony’s absence due to the rib cartilage injury he suffered against Gloucester would of course be a blow, it is also of some comfort to Munster that they managed to beat Leinster at Thomond Park over Christmas without him.
“I know we thrive on the big occasion and big games,” said Johann van Graan at the squad’s high performance centre in the UL yesterday. “We love to play at Thomond Park and we’ve got a quality squad.
“Pete’s been involved in most of the big games for the last two years. He wasn’t involved, starting against Leinster – he was involved as a water carrier,” said van Graan with a smile.
“If it comes to that over the weekend, we’re a team who believes in the squad. I’ve said from day one, in all competitions you’re going to gain some guys and you’ll lose some guys.
‘Lots of options’
“If he doesn’t play it will be a loss for the team, but I thought CJ Stander did really well as captain against Leinster and I thought Fineen Wycherley had an excellent day.”
While that is one alternative, there are others.
“We have a lot of options; we have Tadhg Beirne who can play on the flank, Tommy O’Donnell might shift over, Chris Cloete and the likes of CJ [Stander] and Arno [Botha] have played Test rugby in that position before.
“We have a lot of options. The most important thing is to find out how Pete is first and then look at our options and we’ll make a call on Thursday.”
Although van Graan rated O’Mahony’s chances of leading Munster out as “50-50 at best”, the odds of him doing so would appear less favourable than that.
The full extent of O’Mahony’s rib cartilage injury will only become clearer after the results of a scan which he underwent yesterday. But given the opening Six Nations game against England is only a fortnight from next Saturday (Ireland’s squad is expected to be announced tomorrow) that might also count against his participation.
“With a bang to the ribs and rib cartilage you do have a lot of pain. It’s not something that just goes away. So we’ll give him every opportunity to recover up to Saturday,” said van Graan.
“Unfortunately, if you’re a forward, it’s not something you can hide, if you go to the breakdown, or steal a ball. I had a chat with him this morning, he’s very open-minded about it.
“He’d love to play in this game, but his body has to work with it first. First and foremost, it’s Pete’s health that’s most important so we’ll make a decision on it later in the week.”
Encouragingly, Chris Farrell came through the Gloucester game “perfectly”, according to the Munster head coach.
“He’s got a few knocks and bruises. It was his second 80 [minutes] in two weeks. His knees are fine, that’s the most important thing. I was really happy with his performance. I thought he defended really well. His communication and presence is key to our team and he really attacked well.
“He’s got this ability to carry hard, but also to get the ball away. He was just unlucky that the ball was deemed forward that went on Andrew’s foot,” said van Graan in reference to the try by Conway which was over-ruled. “That’s the threat he possesses and I’m glad he stays fit for this weekend.”