It may soon be time to add a fresh page to the Joey Carbery chronicles. The 25-year-old outhalf has ratcheted up the training workload with Munster as he bids to finally be rid of the ankle injury that has kept him sidelined for over a year.
There is still no date pencilled in but the medical prognosis in the update provided by Johann van Graan suggest that he is edging closer to the point of return, albeit that the player’s wellbeing is the foremost consideration and won’t be compromised by prematurely pushing him back into a match environment.
“He’s doing really well,” said Van Graan before he was asked if he could provide a little more insight into exactly what that meant. Van Graan explained: “He is in the gym with the rest of the lads on his individual programme, working hard with the medical team one-on-one.
“Physically he is in certain sessions in the week, actually training with the team whether that be attack or defence or backs or kicking game. We started to firstly get his base right and now [we are] increasing the time that he is on the pitch, whether it’s kicking or whether it’s actually running metres, the speed at which he runs, the volume and then the physical contact.
“So, he has got all the elements of training that he is currently going through and everything that he has been doing has gone really well. Mentally and physically, he is in a very good place.
“Like I’ve said before, Joey is a very important player for Munster and obviously for the national team as well. That’s why we will make sure that we look after him very well to take all the pressure off him. Once he is 100 per cent ready to go, I’ll select [him].”
Van Graan paid tribute to the work of the medical team and the careful husbandry of Carbery's recovery while also offering a gentle reminder that the outhalf will have to fight his way back into the No 10 jersey. In his absence a queue has formed with JJ Hanrahan, Ben Healy, Jack Crowley and Jake Flannery all pushing for game time.
“Look, the most important thing is you do your succession planning. Munster has done really well to bring through Jack Crowley, Jake Flannery and Ben Healy. We have got a plan with all of those individuals. Currently, JJ is our number one flyhalf. He has played really well over the last couple of weeks.
“You’ve got Ben Healy who has put in some phenomenal performances. When Joey does come back, all five know that they are fighting for two spots in the team. Some of them can play different positions, but we have got a longer-term plan. Specifically, the three young guys mentioned, Jack, Jake and Ben will play a huge part over the coming years for Munster Rugby.
“They have bought into the plan and that’s the most important thing. It’s the individuals all putting their weight together for the team and credit to all of them who are currently doing that.”
Craig Casey, an unused replacement in Ireland's 15-13 defeat to France at the weekend, Andrew Conway, Shane Daly and Chris Farrell returned to Munster training this week and are eligible for selection for Saturday night's game against Edinburgh at Murrayfield (7.35).
Van Graan said: “It’s always great to welcome national players and that’s exactly what they are: they are Test-calibre players. If selected I am sure they will play a big part on Saturday. They fit in seamlessly, as they have in the autumn.”
Hooker Rhys Marshall (knee) is back in training, so too prop Keynan Knox (knee) and wing Calvin Nash. Liam Coombes was removed with a head injury during Munster A's win over the Connacht Eagles last Friday afternoon and will undergo the return-to-play protocols. Roman Salanoa (back) came through that match with no issues.
Dan Goggin (hand), Matt Gallagher (shoulder), Neil Cronin (knee) and RG Snyman (knee) are continuing their respective rehabilitation programmes. Van Graan confirmed that Snyman has returned to Ireland after spending a few weeks in South Africa and completed the isolation process..
“He is back in the HPC [High Performance Centre] the last few weeks. The injury that he has had, it is a long process. Somewhere in the coming months he will be hopefully available for selection. He is doing really well and it is great to have him back at the HPC.”