Conor Murray expected to be fit for Ireland’s clash with Italy

Munster scrumhalf will miss the province’s opening Pro14 match this weekend

Munster’s Conor Murray won’t be available for their Pro14 opener this weekend. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Munster’s Conor Murray won’t be available for their Pro14 opener this weekend. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Johann van Graan has allayed fears over Conor Murray’s well-being for Ireland’s rescheduled 2020 Six Nations match against Italy in four weeks’ time at the Aviva Stadium.

Although the scrumhalf will miss Munster’s opening match in the 2020-21 Guinness Pro14 away to the Scarlets this Saturday due to a thigh injury he sustained in the semi-final defeat by Leinster over three weeks ago, van Graan intimated that Murray might possibly be fit for their second game against Edinburgh at Thomond Park on Saturday week.

“Conor is progressing well. Hopefully, he might be available for selection next week but don’t want to speculate on that,” said the Munster head coach. “He’s got an outside chance to be available next week against Edinburgh but we won’t push him if it’s not 100 per cent ready to play.”

Either way, the indications are that Murray should have recovered in time for the Italian game. Van Graan had a similar prognosis for Dave Kilcoyne, who suffered an ankle injury just eight minutes into the first post-lockdown game against Leinster.

“Dave Kilcoyne is progressing well. There’s an outside chance that he’ll be ready for next weekend.”

Alas, not unexpectedly, there is no clear sign of when Joey Carbery might be on the road back. “No, Joey will be the same for a number of weeks and months. He’s doing very well but no update on the injury.”

Against that, Munster welcomed back Jean Kleyn - following the neck injury he suffered in that damaging first game back against Leinster - and Mike Haley - who hasn’t played since February after sustaining a torn calf in the build-up to those games in August and September - for last Saturday’s Munster A warm-up win over Connacht Eagles in Thomond Park, where 200 fans were admitted.

Furthermore, van Graan also hailed the return to training this week of Andrew Conway and Dan Goggin.

“So a fair bit of experience and seasoned internationals aren’t available but we’re going to get that through the season so we’re very excited with the players we have available against the Scarlets.”

Beaten in the semi-final stages by Leinster for the last three seasons, looking ahead to the new campaign van Graan said: “From a league point of view, all teams are back to zero points so in order to get yourself in the playoff games, you’ve got to consistently perform week in and week out.

“You’ve got to put yourself in a position to get into a semi-final, which we’ve done for the last four seasons and then hopefully improve as the season goes to get a positive result in a semi-final and get into a final. But that’s a very long way away.

“There’s a few different blocks coming up. We’ve got two weeks with the whole squad and then a whole host of players will go to the national team but the bulk of our squad will remain behind. Guys come back the Monday before the Champions Cup [in December] and we’ve got two Champions Cup games, the interpros, two more Champions Cup games and then there’s a Six Nations with some Pro14 games and then you’re into April. There’s such a long way to go so we’ll start with this week.”

Having signed both Haley and Matt Gallagher since Simon Zebo’s departure for Racing 92 over two years ago, van Graan was decidedly non-committal on the possibility of re-signing their former full-back/winger who, like Donnacha Ryan, has reached the upcoming 2020 Heineken Champions Cup final against Exeter in Bristol.

“Zeebs is doing brilliantly at Racing Metro, it suits him very well. We wish them well for that final. Zeebs and Donnacha are class players and they showed that once again. The future is very uncertain at this stage and we’ll only take it day by day and week by week.”

Munster have been more disrupted than the other provinces due to two separate cases of academy players testing positive for Covid-19 since rugby’s return but van Graan saw this as proof of the system working effectively.

“The very first player that tested positive, that came as a shock to everybody because it was the first case we’ve had. We’re all adapting, it happened again and I will always put the health of the players before performance because we’re all human beings. We’re going to have to live with the virus. The positive cases showed the system worked and the action we took and the squad remaining healthy, that showed the protocols are working.

“You’ve got to have the ability to adapt. You might lose a guy to a temperature check, it’s just the new world and we will have to live with the way things are currently.”

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