Alby Mathewson joins Munster as stand-in for Conor Murray
Former All Black joined up with the squad but will not feature against Glasgow
Alby Mathewson, Conor Murray’s temporary replacement, during a Munster squad session on Monday. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Conor Murray’s temporary replacement, former All Black Alby Mathewson, has arrived in Limerick and has linked up with his new teammates but will not feature when they travel to Glasgow later this week.
The 32-year-old, capped five times by New Zealand, is waiting on a work permit but with Neil Cronin crowning his first start with a solid display against the Cheetahs on Saturday, and James Hart, Duncan Williams and Jack Stafford all available, coach Johann van Graan has plenty of cover.
Van Graan again stated on Monday at the weekly press conference at their headquarters in University of Limerick, that he was unable to comment on Conor Murray’s injury.
Murray, out of contract at the end of the World Cup in Japan next year, is believed to be suffering from a neck or shoulder injury which has prompted Munster to bring in the experienced Mathewson on a four-month deal.
Munster yesterday issued a squad update which listed eight players unavailable, with the injuries they are troubled included for all of them bar Murray.
Mathewson, who won two of his five caps against Munster at Thomond Park in 2008 and against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in 2010, joins after making 19 appearances for Toulon last season but has been out of contract since the end of the Top 14 campaign.
“He left Toulon a few weeks ago and returned to Perth,” said van Graan. “I’m treating him as an injured player that is returning. He’s in very good physical condition. If you look at him obviously he’s been training on his own. One of the reasons we got him is he is a true professional, looks after the body very well across his whole career.”
Munster’s early season seems to be all about the number nine shirt with Neil Cronin, younger brother of Irish hooker Seán, making an impressive first start in the 38-0 win over the Cheetahs. The 25-year old had made four appearances off the bench – totalling just 15 minutes of action – in a previous spell with Munster in the 2014-15 season, but his impressive displays captaining Garryowen saw him plucked from a teaching career in St Munchin’s and rewarded with a one-year professional contract.
“He has done really well. He will be the first to say that the tempo was pretty high and like I said it is the next step for him. He has come in with a very open mind and a very positive attitude.
“It is his second chance and I thought he took it over the weekend, but this is only week one. There is such a long way to go,” added van Graan, who was also pleased with the way Joey Carbery performed in his first game for Munster.
“Joey Carbery to us he is one of our 47 senior contracted players. It was good to get him onto the field, we said we going to use the squad. Currently we are four out-halves available, we will rotate them, move them around.
“The closer we get to Europe, the closer we will get to the starting 15 and the starting 23, so we were very happy what the 25 minutes or so that he played.
“I thought he slotted into the team pretty well. I also thought that JJ (Hanrahan) played a pretty decent game at 10 and then at 15. Then we’ve got Keats (Ian Keatley) and Bill Johnson available as well,” added van Graan.