Van Graan says Carbery will only make Munster return when ‘he’s 100% ready’

Coach says Ireland outhalf remains in line to return at some stage in September

One of these days Johann van Graan will face the media without being asked about the physical wellbeing of Joey Carbery. After all, apart from the young man himself, no-one wants to see the gifted 24-year-old playmaker playing regularly and injury free more than the Munster head coach.

Carbery should be an integral part of the more expansive game Munster are seeking under the influence of former Australia outhalf Stephen Larkham, aside from which the departures of Ian Keatley and Bill Johnston, along with the retirement of Tyler Bleyendaal, have left Munster's outhalf cupboard a little bare compared to when he first joined in 2018.

Carbery has only started one game and appeared off the bench in another since the Pro 14 semi-final defeat by Leinster in May of last year due to ankle and wrist surgery.

Whereas Van Graan could specifically target their game against Leinster on August 22nd as a projected comeback for Tadhg Beirne as he completes his recovery from the broken ankle he sustained against Saracens last December, he suggested Carbery would be back playing "some time in September".


“I think it’s important to note that the ankle surgery went very well but that was a serious injury,” said Van Graan, adding: “The timeline is still somewhere in September. He’s working very hard, he’s very excited about the comeback but specifically about Joey I think it’s very important that we only put him back on the field when he’s 100 per cent ready.

“He’s so important for us. He’s one of only two senior outhalves that we have at Munster Rugby, and he’s a starting international, so he’s not only important for us but for Irish rugby as well.”

“So we’ll make sure he’s 100 per cent ready when we put him back on the pitch and whether that will be at the back end of the first part of the Pro 14 or the start of next season’s Pro 14, that will still be determined. But the timeline is pretty much somewhere in September.”

Whereas Keith Earls was in "fantastic shape" and also on course for the August 22nd restart, Munster were awaiting a scan on Dan Goggin's leg injury.

Meanwhile, Van Graan maintained that the case which led to James Cronin receiving a three-month ban is effectively closed, in response to Dr Una May, Sport Ireland head of anti-doping, suggesting that they could start "a new case" if the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland decided to carry out an investigation.

Asked about this eventuality, Van Graan maintained that the EPRC disciplinary process was “transparent and very comprehensive, one with clear supporting evidence at every stage.”

He added: “Everybody can see and understand why the sanction was imposed. And in the words of the judicial officer it was down to an unexpected and serious error on the part of the pharmacist.

“Ultimately this boils down to human error. It’s led to a lengthy investigation and that’s what the EPCR finding reflects. It’s clear for all to see that the responsibility of the player was low, so from my point of view that’s the information that was given and I’ll rest with that.”

Meanwhile EPCR have confirmed that Leinster and Saracens will kick-off the rearranged Heineken Champions Cup weekend when meeting at the Aviva stadium at 3pm on Saturday, September 19th in a repeat of last season’s final.

This will be followed by the all-French affair between Clermont and Racing 92, while Toulouse will host Ulster the following day at 1.30pm local time (12.30 Irish) in Le Stadium before the Exeter-Northampton tie completes the four matches.

The LNR have also confirmed that the 2020-21 Top 14 and ProD2 seasons will start with a full programme of matches on the first weekend in September, beginning with Stade Francais v Bordeaux-Bègles on Friday the 4th. The final will be on June 26th.

Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals

(All kick-offs local time)

Saturday September 19th

QF1: Leinster v Saracens, Aviva Stadium, 3.0 (BT Sport)

QF2: ASM Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92, Stade Marcel-Michelin (6.30/5.30 Irish) (BT Sport)

Sunday, September 20th

QF 3: Toulouse v Ulster, Le Stadium (1.30/12.30 Irish) (Virgin Media/Channel 4/BT Sport

QF 4: Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints, Sandy Park (5.30) (BT Sport)

Semi-finals (September 25th-27th)

Semi-final 1: Winner QF 1 (Leinster v Saracens) v Winner QF 2 (Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92).

Semi-final 2: Winner of QF 3 (Toulouse v Ulster) v Winner QF 4 (Exeter v Northampton)

2020 Heineken Champions Cup final

Weekend October 16th-18th. Venue TBC

Challenge Cup quarter-finals

(All kick-offs local time)

Friday September 18th

QF 4: Bristol Bears v Dragons, Ashton Gate Stadium (7.45) (BT Sport)

Saturday, September 19th

QF 3: Bordeaux-Bègles v Edinburgh, Stade Chaban-Delmas (1.30/12.30 Irish) ( BT Sport)

QF 1: Toulon v Scarlets, Stade Félix Mayol (9.0/8.0 Irish) ( BT Sport/S4C)

Sunday, September 20th

QF 2: Leicester Tigers v Castres Olympique, Welford Road (3.0) (BT Sport)

Semi-finals (September 25th-27th)

Semi-final 1: Winner QF 1 (Toulon v Scarlets) v Winner QF2 (Leicester Tigers v Castres Olympique)

Semi-final 2: Winner of QF 3 (Bordeaux-Bègles v Edinburgh) v QF 4 (Bristol Bears v Dragons)

2020 Challenge Cup final

Weekend October 16th-18th. Venue TBC