Thursday 22 February 2018

Simon Zebo set to miss Cardiff clash as Erasmus demands better

Simon Zebo is able to see the funny side of things while watching the Munster training session at UL yesterday. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Simon Zebo is able to see the funny side of things while watching the Munster training session at UL yesterday. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Erasmus: “Maybe it’s not too bad and it’s only muscle but I will be surprised if he (Zebo) is ready.” Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Munster will be boosted by the return of CJ Stander for Friday's game with Cardiff in Cork, but Rassie Erasmus insists his side have a lot of improving to do ahead of that tie.

The Reds, who moved into their new training facility in UL yesterday, got their season off to a bright start with an impressive away win against Scarlets but their director of rugby feels his side were not tested to their limits in that ten-point win.

A stern defensive effort set the stage for the Munster attack to run in a couple of game-winning tries, but the loss of Simon Zebo early on is expected to stretch to Friday's game.

The Ireland wing had a scan yesterday on the rib injury that Erasmus expects will ruled him out for the weekend, while Stephen Archer (neck), Kevin O'Byrne (elbow) and Peter O'Mahony (knee) are also set to miss out.

There is still no sign of a return for Conor Murray or Keith Earls for Erasmus.

"Maybe it's not too bad and it's only muscle but I will be surprised if he (Zebo) is ready," said Erasmus (above). "Sometimes a cartilage can feel like a broken rib and some guys have higher pain thresholds than others but he's a pretty tough guy so hopefully it's not a long, long-term thing."

Erasmus said he was pleased to see a gradual improvement from his side's pre-season games, but he added that he didn't envisage them winning any silverware this season if they continue to operate at their current standards.

"It was gutsy and determined and the guys were prepared to work at their game out there," he said. "But both tactically and technically there was so many things that were not spot on, there is so much to work on. That always helps not to get carried away.

"It's a short turnaround and we have so much things to rectify, and I'm pretty sure we won't rectify all of them before Friday and there will be some mistakes as well.

"As long as we go game by game and improve from experience of the previous weekend's game, we'll get better and better.

"I don't think we were so much under the pump on Saturday, we weren't tested that much. Certainly at times in the beginning we were tested and it will get much tougher in the season.

"The way we played on Friday won't win us any championships, or any cups. But that's something to build on."

As well as Stander's return from the Player Welfare Programme, there is a chance that Andrew Conway could feature this weekend after he shook off a knock to play some part in an in-house game against the U-20s.

Munster's defensive efforts in Llanelli received many plaudits but Erasmus would prefer to see his side start brightly rather than defending their own line.

"The game against Worcester, we started and we had to defend for a minute or a minute and a half, which is good if you stick through it," he said.

"But there are always opportunities in the first few minutes. You want to get off to a more solid start. If you don't, you defend like that.

"Tactically you don't want every game going to that and having to weather that and then only get into the game.

"So yes, gutsy, but tactically not the smartest way we played there."

O'Byrne was the only other injury concern to emerge from the win against Scarlets and he is having a scan on an elbow injury, but there was some positive news for Archer, who is only likely to miss one more game due to the neck injury he picked up ahead of the new season.

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