Ryan's slow recovery leaves Six Nations hopes fading fast
DONNACHA RYAN's Six Nations chances appear to be fading after Rob Penney opted not to name a date for the second-row's return.
The New Zealander had previously said that the Tipperary native (left) would be fit in time for the championship, but his knee injury is healing slower than expected. However, Penney did declare Simon Zebo 100pc fit for action after his return from a foot injury last Saturday, despite the fact that the winger has been left out of Joe Schmidt's extended squad.
Both players were among a group of seven not selected for the extended 44-man Ireland squad for the camp which assembles next Monday at the team's Maynooth base on the basis that they are to stay with their provinces to recover and get game time.
There are crunch Heineken Cup clashes this weekend, but those players would then not have another game until the second weekend of the Six Nations, when Ireland play Wales.
"I'd hate to throw a time out there at the moment," Penney said of Ryan's return. "Poor old Donnacha is not recovering as quickly as we all would have hoped so he's not in the mix this week."
As for Zebo, Penney believes that the winger needs to play his way into Schmidt's plans.
"We wouldn't have had him back in the mix last week unless he was 100pc. He's ready to go," Penney said. "We've had great communication from them (the national coaches). You'd have to ask him the details as to why they're left out. Simon has just got to play well."
A number of Penney's players were left disappointed after Schmidt named his squad on Tuesday. Zebo, James Coughlan and Donncha O'Callaghan were all left out after their November involvement and the likes of Sean Dougall and James Cronin missed out on the Wolfhounds squad to face England Saxons.
"There's always a little bit of that (disappointment)," Penney said. "It's part and parcel of being a top-class rugby player; you're going to put yourself in the frame to be selected and sometimes you get picked and sometimes you don't.
"Simon is coming off a prolonged injury break. He's a realist and there's a bit of resilience there."
Penney will be hoping the players who were included in the squad will be boosted for Sunday's clash with Edinburgh, while those who were left out will have a point to prove. Paul O'Connell sat out training in Limerick yesterday but is not considered to be a doubt and the team who beat Gloucester comprehensively should all be available.
Munster have already qualified for the last eight, but the big incentive this weekend is earning the right to play that quarter-final at Thomond Park. Penney is happy with the progress he has seen.
"They're a group that are starting to build and they understand that every week there's an opportunity to show their skills and their talents, particularly at Thomond Park," said the New Zealander, who could provide no update on his own future.
"They respect their fans and the history so much that I don't think there'll be a worry about the group playing as well as they can."