Munster boost as Bleyendaal edges closer to comeback
Tyler Bleyendaal looks set to give Munster a timely boost as they began their preparations in earnest for next month's Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulon.
The 27-year old Kiwi, Munster's player of the year last season, has been out through injury since October but is now back in training and coach Johann van Graan is hopeful he will be back playing in the next few weeks.
Bleyendaal has made just 37 appearances since joining Munster over three years ago and suffered his latest setback in the Champions Cup draw away to Castres in October.
That troublesome neck injury came in his fifth appearance of the season, the same number of games he played when he finally made his debut in the 2015-'16 campaign, almost a year after he was due to make his bow.
"Tyler Bleyendaal is back in training, he's taking limited contact," said Van Graan at the Munster High Performance Centre in Limerick yesterday.
"We hope to see him sometime in the next four weeks. I won't say we're out of the woods yet. We're still taking it day by day like I said before.
vibrant "Obviously he's our number one concern and he's looking after himself very, very well and so are the medical team. It's great to have him back at training, he's a vibrant player.
"I just watched the Toulouse quarter-final of last year and the semi-final against Saracens and he's a special player. It'll be great to have him back later in the competition," added Van Graan.
Winger Andrew Conway has returned from national camp to Munster to rehab a knee injury which looks set to sideline him for a couple of weeks, while prop James Cronin has also returned and is expected to chalk up game-time on Saturday against Zebre.
Another loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne has gone in the opposite direction and linked up with the Irish squad in Carton House after recovering from a knee injury picked up in the Champions Cup win over Castres.
Van Graan said that next Saturday's Guinness PRO14 clash with Zebre and the other games during the Six Nations - they will be away to Cardiff and Edinburgh and at home to Glasgow - will give fringe players a big opportunity to stake their claims.
And, of course, Munster and Van Graan are boosted by the availability of the departing Simon Zebo for these games.
One player who could make his debut for Munster during the Six Nations is lock Gerbrandt Grobler. "He's available like he was the previous few weekends you know, if we decide we select him he's available," added Van Graan.