Injury boost for Munster ahead of 'really tight' out-half call
After being inundated by fresh injury casualties last weekend, Munster were able to issue a surprisingly bullish bulletin yesterday.
Effectively, the only real headache Rob Penney has is who to select at out-half for their trip to beleaguered Gloucester.
"It's really close, really tight," confirmed Penney of his head-scratching conundrum between Ian Keatley and the people's choice, JJ Hanrahan. Keatley, for whom a tight groin was an alibi in Belfast last Friday, remains marginally favourite.
"You look at the performances of JJ of late and he has done a terrific job and is getting more consistent all the time," said Penney.
"On the other hand, 'Keats' has taken over the big boots of Ronan O'Gara, did a great job last year when he was called into those shoes a few times and again this year in being consistent.
"So there's a sense that you have to reward those performances. But it is a tight call."
Captain Peter O'Mahony, secretly relishing the fact that he does not have to make such a call, said: "The fact the two of them are quite young and were around when Rog was there is good and healthy.
"They have a great relationship. They bounce a lot off each other. I think it has to be healthy that they are driving each other on.
"I don't think you are going to see a player like ROG ever again, but there are a lot of young guys coming through who offer different things. ROG was an all- round player.
"Guys are coming in now and we can mix and match and that can be only good for us."
At least Penney is not as mocked by injury concerns as he seemed to be last Friday, when he prematurely committed Donncha O'Callaghan and Damien Varley to the casualty ward alongside scrum-half Cathal Sheridan.
Sheridan is definitely out for six weeks with a grade two medial ligament knee injury, but both O'Callaghan and Varley are likely to be involved against Gloucester, with the hooker more likely to start.
Lions scrum-half Conor Murray has timed his comeback well from his own knee travails and Penney may also have the luxury of selecting from a brace of returning international wings in Keith Earls and Simon Zebo.
"It's great to have Simon back around training," enthused O'Mahony. "He never really went away. He was around the place, doing his own work.
"And credit to him -- he has been doing so much hard work on his own these past few months. It's a tough place to be.
"He's a bubbly character and he's great to have around the squad. He's a very good professional, a serious athlete."