Monday 10 December 2018

Conway and Zebo in fitness race

Munster's Andrew Conway. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster's Andrew Conway. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

It never rains but it pours, especially in Limerick, and it seemed such a pathetic fallacy that as Munster began training, the heavens began to weep.

Already debilitated by injuries in the back-row and three-quarters, Munster coach Johann van Graan had earlier updated us before the clouds parted to issue further worrying updates.

Tommy O'Donnell is definitively scratched for the weekend, the luckless flanker damaging an arm last weekend against the Scarlets so soon after returning from shoulder trouble.

If that narrows the back-row options still further, Van Graan will also be desperately hoping that Rory Scannell emerges relatively unscathed from his return-to-play protocols to take his place alongside Sam Arnold in a heavily de-populated three-quarters line.

Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway remain standing - just - but both are rated at 50-50 to feature; Zebo did train yesterday so those percentages have escalated in his favour but Conway sat out.

"I think leaving it to Thursday or Friday is too late," said Van Graan as he assesses the pair's readiness.

"We've got a training week of Monday to Wednesday and now we've to get through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, you've to train at some stage of the training week.

"That would be too much of a gamble to leave a guy up to Friday. If it was a guy with a bump or a bruise who had played every single game but not a guy coming back from injury, you need them to be part of team training.

"Andrew is 100pc on par with the rugby but we have to get him out on the field and get the ball in his hands. We have so many injuries in the backs so we will give them every opportunity to come back.

"But we need guys who are 100pc ready to go."

Conor Oliver is fit for this weekend but, with Grand Slam winners Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander slotting seamlessly back into the fray, the recent form - and size - of Robin Copeland may give him the edge, unless Jack O'Donoghue starts and Copeland remains a bench option.

In the back three, Calvin Nash, Alex Wootton and Darren Sweetnam remain live options, with the versatile JJ Hanrahan available as another back-up option should Irish duo Conway and Zebo fail to make the cut.

"Any injury at this stage is a massive blow," said Van Graan, "but we had our review and preview this morning.

"It's not an excuse for us, we're a squad, we like challenges.

"It's not something that we can change or control but for a guy like Calvin Nash, he did outstandingly well against Scarlets and Darren Sweetnam is ready to go.

"I thought Alex Wootton did well too."

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