RG Snyman, the marquee Springbok lock, is facing "six to 12 months" rehabilitation on his left knee, said Munster assistant coach Stephen Larkham.
“It is devastating news for RG,” said the Wallaby legend. “He came over here with a goal to become part of this team and he had been training exceptionally well for us. We had been very excited to have him here as well and he knew there was a fair bit of expectation.
“It is also upsetting for the rest of the team. We were really looking forward to [his impact].”
What makes the loss of Snyman and Jean Kleyn (neck ligaments) even worse is Munster must make do with their current squad despite an injury crisis in several key positions. That is the overriding message from the IRFU High Performance Director David Nucifora due to financial restraints created by Covid-19.
The obvious example is secondrow but loosehead prop injuries are also putting a strain on resources in Limerick. The province have been told that no additional cover will be provided despite the loss of Snyman (ACL) and Kleyn as well as Ireland prop Dave Kilcoyne (ankle ligaments) and Joey Carbery (ankle), each for unspecified periods of time.
Considering Tyler Bleyendaal’s forced retirement, Larkham was asked if Munster can bring in an outhalf or lock - former London Irish secondrow Jerry Sexton is searching for a team after the Southern Kings ceased trading - or from overseas or another province.
“Short term, no...We have got a couple of young guys in the Academy if you look from a five eights perspective. We got Ben Healy, Jake Flannery and Jack Crowley who have been training with us for the last couple of months. We have a lot of confidence in those guys. We certainly feel they understand the system quite well so we are quite comfortable putting those guys in if we need to.”
Against Leinster last Saturday Rory Scannell covered outhalf behind JJ Hanrahan.
"From a secondrow perspective, Tadhg Beirne is back which gives us a little bit of depth. Billy Holland is all good. Fineen Wycherley is back as well. I think it is timely for those guys coming back in. We also got some academy players, Thomas Ahern is showing a lot of promise. Paddy Kelly also. Both are good young prospects who we would be very comfortable putting in the main team."
None of the above are natural tighthead secondrows but Ahern has looked like a genuine prospect for the Ireland Under-20s.
Beirne is expected to feature against Connacht on Sunday, with Munster needing two points to secure a Pro 14 semi-final against Leinster the following weekend, but James Cronin remains “touch and go for this week” which is forcing Munster scrum coach Graham Rowntree to switch at least one tighthead prop to loosehead.
“At the moment we have Boomer [Liam O’Connor]and Josh [Wycherley]training as well,” Larkham added. “We feel we have enough depth there at the moment. I wouldn’t say we are flush with depth. There are guys we are swapping over in the scrum just to make sure that we have coverage for the weekend.
“It’s the same with any team in Ireland at the moment. There is a real shortage of props.”