Penney's festive period to be lit up by stars' early return to action
ROB PENNEY has received an early Christmas present, with the likely return to fitness of Tommy O'Donnell, Keith Earls and Donnacha Ryan before the busy festive period.
Munster looked set to be without Ryan (below) until the opening act of 2014, while Earls was also struggling to regain full fitness after a knee injury.
And with Simon Zebo also on track to make it back for the Christmas period – which sees Munster host Scarlets and Connacht – the coach is delighted.
"Zeebs is progressing well. The bone's knitting nicely and the specialist's really pleased with that," he said. "It can be a massive area of concern if the knitting's not taking place in the foot because of the shortage of blood supply down there. It can be a very niggly injury, so at this point it's all really positive.
"He doesn't need to have an operation to have a screw put in or anything like that, but he's probably still a month or six weeks away from being in our frame.
"Tommy's another one that's progressing really well. His time lines were around Christmas time, but he's maybe a week or so ahead of schedule in terms of that.
"So he's excited with that, we're rapt, the specialist's rapt. From what could have been a pretty nasty rehab process, it's gone really smoothly for him. So just maybe around into the Christmas period.
"Donnacha Ryan's back on his feet and getting back into a bit of activity. It's low intensity at the moment and he's had a pretty good report from the specialist.
"Earlsy's responded really well to the treatment that he got around the early part of the national camp; responded really well from the freshening, being off his feet and he could be back in the next couple of weeks."
In the short term, Penney has to plan without Ian Keatley (hip/groin), James Downey (groin) and new signing Gerhard van der Heever (groin) for tomorrow's trip to the Arms Park to meet Cardiff Blues, but they have been boosted by the return of Denis Hurley and Ian Nagle to training.