Van Graan hopeful Beirne and Conway’s injuries not serious
Munster coach fears O’Donnell will be out for a ‘long time’ but says Murray ‘should be fine’
Munster’s Conor Murray in action against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday at Thomond Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Munster coach Johann van Graan is hopeful that the injuries which prevented his lock Tadhg Beirne and Andrew Conway from travelling with the Ireland squad to Portugal are not serious.
Beirne has been ruled out of the opening Six Nations games against England and Scotland with a knee injury but Conway, who has a tight adductor, is expected to be back in camp with Ireland next week.
And van Graan also allayed fears around the injury which Conor Murray picked up in the 9-7 win against Exeter Chiefs.
The scrumhalf, who only played his first match of the season in late November after being out with a neck injury, was fit to travel on Monday morning to Portugal for the training camp.
“Conor took a knock early in the game, recovered fine in the game, I took him off,” said van Graan.
“It was a stinger in the shoulder, but I didn’t take him off because of the injury. I made a tactical substitution with Alby [Mathewson], so he should be fine.
“Tadhg Beirne is out with that knee injury. He was assessed and he will be out for a bit of time with his knee.
“Andrew Conway is staying behind. He is doing his rehab here. It is a knock, a tight adductor.”
However, the biggest casualty from Saturday’s gruelling encounter is flanker Tommy O’Donnell, amid fears that the Tipperary man is set for another long spell on the sideline.
The 31-year-old, who won the last of his 12 caps against Scotland in the Six Nations three years ago suffered a shoulder injury and the extent of the damage is being assessed.
“Tommy is the big worry. He took a knock just before half-time v Exeter and at first he thought it was a stinger, but it seems to be serious.
“He is seeing a specialist. We will hopefully know soon, I don’t want to guess, but I think he might be out for a long time again.”
Van Graan said it would be a big blow to O’Donnell who has had to endure horrendous luck on the injury front in the past few seasons.
Two years ago he chalked up 28 appearances for Munster – starting 26 of them – but then last season his campaign ended in March with a shoulder injury.
He returned at the outset of this season and played in the Champions Cup games against Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester but was then sidelined for two months, missing the December games against Castres, with an ankle injury.
O’Donnell, who signed a contract extension earlier this season to June 2021, was just four games into his return when he suffered the latest setback and van Graan said it was a cruel blow.
“He has worked so hard to come back, he had come back early with that ankle of his and I thought he really played well over the past two weeks.
“He gives us such a good balance in our loose trio and you know, seems to be out again now, went to the national squad again. If he is out long term I will be gutted for him,” added van Graan.
Meanwhile, the Munster coach dismissed notions that they had got a favourable draw in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup, avoiding Leinster, Saracens and Racing 92 when they were drawn away to Edinburgh.
“My view is you have got to treat every game the same. Edinburgh has done fantastically well over the last season.
“We have played them in the quarter-final at Thomond Park and just come out on the right side. Cockers [Richard Cockerill] is a fantastic coach, they play winning rugby, very good scrum, maul.
“They have beaten Glasgow home and away which is no mean feat. They have just beaten Montpellier, they are a quality side. If you look at the history of Europe you don’t win a quarter-final easily. We are under no illusion as to what awaits us at the end of March,” added van Graan.