Robin Copeland's hopes of making his Six Nations debut look like they will have to wait another year with his return from a shoulder injury now set to drag on.
The 27-year -old is due to go for a scan amid fears that he might require surgery on the injury suffered against Leinster in December. It could leave him with a battle to be back before the end of the season.
The Wexford-born backrow, who made his international debut off the bench against Georgia in November, had featured in 11 of Munster’s 15 games this season having joined from Cardiff during the summer.
It was expected that he would return for Munster against his former club this weekend and provide options for Ireland as the Six Nations progresses.
“He is going off to see a specialist. It is a shoulder injury so we don’t know the full extent of that. He could be out for some time. It has been an ongoing thing,” said Munster assistant coach Brian Walsh yesterday.
“Certainly in the short-term until such time as he sees the specialist we won’t know for definite but it looks like he might need some work on his shoulder.”
Duncan Casey has become the latest Munster hooker to be injured and he joins long-term casualties Mike Sherry and Damien Varley on the sideline for the next few weeks after suffering an ankle injury.
Eusebio Guinazu has returned to fitness and coach Anthony Foley also has Kevin O'Byrne and Niall Scannell to choose from in the No.2 shirt, while loosehead Dave Kilcoyne could also return this weekend.
Donnacha Ryan, out since last March with a toe injury, continues to progress but can’t yet scrummage and his return remains undecided.
But Tyler Bleyendaal’s future with Munster remains up in the air and assistant coach Walsh said that a scan on his neck injury in four weeks will be crucial.
The former Canterbury and Crusaders outhalf or centre, whose signing was announced last May on a three-year deal, finally linked up with Munster on their recent training camp week in Lanzarote after undergoing surgery on a neck injury last autumn.
Bleyendaal’s recovery has become all the more crucial given the departure of JJ Hanrahan at the end of the season but the Kiwi’s future at Munster could be in doubt depending on his recovery.
“He is due for a scan in four weeks’ time and I think that is a telling scan at that stage. He is doing all the rehab. Even if that scan goes well I don’t think he will be available in the short-term. It will be a longer progression to get him back to play,” said Walsh, who did not rule out Bleyendaal featuring later this season.
The Munster assistant coach said he was thrilled with the way Ian Keatley performed on his first Six Nations start against Italy, not least as Munster had backed him as their primary outhalf.
“There’s always lots of conjecture about who is your best 10 and but I think the fact that Joe (Schmidt) saw the merit is starting him in such an important game shows that there are other people out there that see his value as well. I think Ian for his first start in the Six Nations did particularly well . . .