Robin Copeland to miss Munster’s Pro 12 clash against Connacht

Backrower doubtful for the crucial Champions Cup showdown with Saracens

Munster’s Robin Copeland suffered a shoulder injury in the 28-13 win over Leinster at the weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster’s Robin Copeland suffered a shoulder injury in the 28-13 win over Leinster at the weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Irish international Robin Copeland has been ruled out of Munster’s trip to Galway on Thursday and is doubtful for their crucial Champions Cup showdown with Saracens in just over a fortnight.

The 27-year-old, who made his international debut off the bench against Georgia in November, suffered a shoulder injury in the 28-13 win over Leinster at the weekend.

Munster were on Monday waiting for the results of a scan to determine the extent of the damage but Copeland has been ruled out of the derby clash against Connacht at the Sportsground on New Year’s Day.

The Wexford-born backrower joined Munster on a two-year deal from Cardiff Blues during the summer and has featured in 11 of Munster’s 15 games this season.

Fullback Felix Jones also sat out training yesterday with a shoulder injury, as did centre Denis Hurley who is troubled by a hamstring problem, and both are rated doubtful for the game against Connacht.

But backrower Tommy O’Donnell is available after receiving stitches to a mouth wound and he is likely to be joined by several of his teammates who had to sit out the win over Leinster with skipper Peter O’Mahony, fully recovered from a knock suffered against Glasgow, Paul O’Connell, Simon Zebo and perhaps Conor Murray set to return to the fray.

Earls progress

Keith Earls

Scrum coach Jerry Flannery said Earls, who has yet to play under Joe Schmidt, will return in the coming weeks. “I’d like to think that he’ll be back, that’s what was targeted for around Zebre leading into Sarries. Donnacha Ryan is also making great progress. He’s back running and the test will be when he gets back scrummaging to see how his foot deals with the pressure.”

Munster have enjoyed three wins from three against Irish provinces this season but one player who knows just how fired-up Connacht will be on Thursday is former Sportsground favourite Ian Keatley.

The Dublin native made the breakthrough with Connacht and spent three seasons at the Sportsground before moving to Munster four seasons ago.

Keatley was man of the match when Connacht scored their only win over Munster in the professional era, kicking all the points in a 12-6 success six years ago when the Reds were the reigning Heineken Cup champions.

“That was my first inter-pro for Connacht when I was there so it was good.

“I remember when I was there and Connacht were talking about building their own legacy and I think they have really stepped it up this year. They are undefeated at home, which is a great record and it just shows how strong they are and I think they will have their 16th man behind them on New Year’s Day which will create a great atmosphere.

“I’m going back to where it kinda of all started for me. I’m looking forward to it, they have a very good record at home. We got a good win over Leinster at the weekend and we are hoping to build on that.

“The inter-pro matches are huge, not just for Connacht, they are massive for us as well, massive for Leinster and for Ulster as well. It gives you a chance to go against people in Ireland in positions you are in. So there are a lot of bragging rights up for grabs, more importantly there are four points up for grabs in the league table,” said the 27-year old.

Keatley role

Marcel Michelin

“When they scored their third try we said it under the posts we knew the game was over for us to win it, but we huddled up and said we are playing for a bonus point here.

“In fairness, it started with Duncan (Casey) getting that intercept when we were putting pressure high up the field on them, then got the conversion and we were within ten. We put pressure on them again and they gave away a penalty and thankfully stepped up and put it over.

“It’s weird, the kind of mentality you are in. You know what’s going on but you can’t dwell on it too much. You are just in a zone, you don’t have time to think and thankfully it went over and we are still in contention.

“But first and foremost we have Connacht this week and we are building towards Saracens but you can’t just turn it on one day, you need to be building and Connacht is another step for us on that road,” added Keatley.

However, it was obvious from training yesterday at University of Limerick that the countdown to Saracens has begun in earnest as training was moved to the 4G pitch on the campus to make players more familiar with the sort of surface they will deal with at Allianz Park on Saturday fortnight.

“There’s no coincidence. It’s planned that we’d do some sessions on the 4G in the build-up towards to the Sarries away game,” confirmed Flannery.

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