Graham Rowntree has allayed any fears concerning Conor Murray's wellbeing for the remainder of the domestic season and the scrumhalf's impending third Lions tour.
Murray has been ruled out of Munster’s Rainbow Cup game against the Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park this Friday (kick-off 7.35pm) with what the province has described as “a low-grade leg injury” which he sustained in their 24-20 defeat by Connacht last Friday week and “is currently rehabilitating”.
Munster’s update added “the scrumhalf is unavailable for the Cardiff game but is expected to be available for the following round”, which is a fortnight afterwards away to Zebre.
“Yeah, hopefully he’ll be all right for next week. He’s certainly not in our plans this week, we’ll see how he progresses,” said Rowntree from the squad’s HPC in the University of Limerick on Tuesday.
Chris Farrell remains sidelined with a groin injury while prop Roman Salanoa is unavailable after picking up an ankle injury in training. Although Thomas Ahern has overcome his knee injury the academy lock has been unable to train due to illness and has also been ruled out of this Friday's game. RG Snyman and Neil Cronin remain sidelined due to their respective knee injuries.
Against that Gavin Coombes, who was a late withdrawal from the Connacht game due to illness, has also returned to training, as has scrumhalf Paddy Patterson after recovering from the ankle injury he sustained against Benetton in March.
After beating Leinster and Ulster, Munster were in pole position in the northern section of the Rainbow Cup, whereupon countless entries into the opposition 22 were repelled by Connacht’s resistance and their own inaccuracies.
“It seems like a month ago now,” said Rowntree of that setback. “Yeah, disappointing but we move on and learn what we can from the game, manage our frustrations and move on. I thought they [Connacht] played well. They stuck in the game right to the end, but we’ve learned plenty from that game.
“We reviewed it and changed things accordingly. That’s what you do, you move on quickly, take your learnings, take your medicine and move on, and we’ve done that.”
Now, in order to top the northern half of the Rainbow Cup and qualify for a final against the table toppers in the South African section, Munster need to beat both Cardiff and Zebre, possibly with one or two bonus points, and hope that unbeaten Benetton slip up at home to Connacht on Saturday or away to Ospreys a fortnight later.
“It’s irrelevant, any other results, it’s about us, isn’t it?” said Rowntree. “It’s about us getting things right after that game, there’s disappointment but as I said, they played well, they stuck in right until the end there, Connacht.
“But it’s irrelevant, the results. It’s getting our game plan and our process right. That’s all we can do.”
Munster last week confirmed the departure of James Cronin as well as the retirements of Billy Holland and Tommy O'Donnell.
“That’s what happens isn’t it, we evolve, players leave, they pass on their knowledge to the young guys coming through which that group of players you’ve just mentioned are exceptional at, and we move on,” said Rowntree.
“That’s how clubs evolve. Three brilliant men, but I can’t speak highly enough about them, and particularly the way they share their knowledge with the young guys coming through. I’m happy with the guys coming through to replace them.”
Releasing Cronin, who at 30 should only be entering a prop's prime years and was selected to start the Pro 14 final against Leinster in March, would appear to be a statement of faith in Josh Wycherley, the 20-year-old loosehead who has been promoted from the academy to the senior squad next season on foot of a two-year deal.
Wycherley, like his brother Fineen a product of Bantry Bay RFC, only made his senior debut against Cardiff last October and performed manfully when pressed into his full Heineken Champions Cup debut in comeback win away to Clermont last December.
With David Kilcoyne and Cronin injured, Wycherley played 77 minutes that night, but he has played only 72 minutes in two appearances since.
“He’s had some injury problems at the start of the year and unfortunately in a competitive position like that if you get injured you can go quickly to the back of the queue and wait for your turn again,” said Rowntree.
“But he’s been very patient in that process, a very professional young man, constantly working on his game and he’ll be back. He has a big future with this club.”
Jack Crowley has rejoined Munster training at the HPC after making his debut with the Ireland Sevens at last week's International Rugby Sevens competition in England having spent the past number of weeks with the squad.
In contrast, Alex Kendellen has been moved from the Sevens to the Ireland under-20s ahead of next month's Six Nations, while Conor Phillips is continuing to train with the Ireland Sevens squad.