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'He might play next week, he might play in six weeks': Bleyendaal still not ready for full contact

The Kiwi out-half has been sidelined since October with a neck problem, but there’s still no certainty over when he’ll return.

Bleyendaal has been able to train with the squad.
Bleyendaal has been able to train with the squad.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

MUNSTER REMAIN UNSURE as to when they’ll have Tyler Bleyendaal, their Kiwi out-half, back fit and available for selection as he continues to be sidelined with a troublesome neck injury.

Bleyendaal hasn’t played since suffering the problem during Munster’s Champions Cup draw with Castres on 15 October, and last week returned to doctors for further assessment.

Munster have been quick to downplay the severity of the issue during his extended absence, and while he has been able to partake in some elements of squad training, there is a growing concern over the injury given he was sidelined with a similar problem three years ago.

Bleyendaal himself last week said ‘he was on the mend’ but the 27-year-old’s monotonous rehabilitation programme has not yet reached the return to full contact stage, meaning Johann van Graan — who admits it’s a ‘tricky’ one, and that the province are being cautious given the player’s medical history — is none the wiser as to when he’ll have him back in the selection picture.

“Nothing new to report,” the Munster head coach says. “I know he went to see some doctors last week again. It is the same thing, it’s about recovering, making sure that he is 100 per cent ready for contact.

“He is in a good spot in his head, but they are not comfortable for him to make full contact yet. He takes part in team training but he’s not ready for a game yet.”

During his enforced layoff, Bleyendaal has remained involved in or around the squad at the province’s University of Limerick headquarters as well as on match day when he has carried the water during the games against Ospreys and, most recently, Leicester Tigers.

Tyler Bleyendaal He carried the water against Leicester Tigers at the weekend. Source: Inpho

A return, van Graan says, isn’t too far away but there is no timeline, particularly now that he has missed the initial target of this two-legged affair against the Tigers.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate on a time,” the South African continues. “He might play next week he might play in six weeks or we might need to reassess. It sounds like it’s a pretty tricky one. Like I said, I’m not a doctor but we’ll take it day-by-day, especially with his history before. The wellbeing of the player comes first.

“Obviously he is a very important part of our team and set up. That’s why he was carrying the water on Saturday as well. But like I said before, day-by-day, he definitely won’t be on the field on the weekend in the 23.”

The form of Ian Keatley certainly helps the situation as Bleyendaal’s return, although preferable if it came sooner rather than later, is not now deemed as urgent as it may have been had van Graan lacked options, or form players, in the pivot position.

“We have got three quality fly-halves, senior fly halves,” he adds. “I thought Billy Johnson also had a good game against Bedford on Friday evening. Keats has played brilliantly, he is brimming with confidence.

“He ran the game very well on Saturday evening. JJ came on for a short amount of time but I thought attack wise he got us on the front foot. I’m happy with the two guys available at this stage but we’d love to have Tyler available again and once he’s available for selection it’ll be a nice headache to have.”

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