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Dublin: 4 °C Saturday 14 December, 2019
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Munster set for All Black boost as Mathewson's long wait nearly over

Johann van Graan hopes the Kiwi scrum-half’s work permit will come through this week.

MUNSTER ARE SET to be boosted by the availability of All Black scrum-half Alby Mathewson for the start of their Champions Cup campaign, as the process to obtain the necessary documentation nears its conclusion. 

Mathewson arrived at the southern province at the end of August after being signed on a short-term deal as injury cover for Conor Murray, but has been unable to play as he awaits a work permit. 

Alby Mathewson The Kiwi scrum-half has been training with Munster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

But Munster are now hopeful of the paperwork coming through ‘within the next 24 hours’, meaning the Kiwi could come into contention for Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 inter-pro against Ulster at Thomond Park [KO 7.35pm, eir Sport/Premier Sport].

32-year-old Mathewson has been training with the Munster squad at their University of Limerick base in recent weeks and will provide Johann van Graan with a strong option in the nine jersey ahead of an important block of fixtures for the province.

With continued uncertainty surrounding Murray’s neck injury and the severity of the problem, and Neil Cronin sidelined with a shoulder issue, Duncan Williams and James Hart have been the two scrum-halves available to van Graan in recent weeks. 

“I hope to have some clarity within the next 24 hours,” the Munster head coach said of Mathewson’s availability. “It might be a chance that he will be in over the weekend, certainly next weekend [v Leinster] but once we got clarity, we’ll let you guys know.

“The information I have is that hopefully we will have it pretty soon. As soon as we’ve got the actual details in our hands, there’s quite a few things still to do, but hopefully we will see him very soon.”

Speaking at this afternoon’s Champions Cup launch in the Aviva Stadium, van Graan added that the process to obtain a work permit for overseas players takes time, and it is outside Munster’s control. 

“It’s just the same every single time, this hasn’t been any different to all the previous ones that we had, it just takes time,” he continued.

“I’m not familiar with the process, we submitted the information straight away, but it’s been the same with guys earlier in the season, even with Arno [Botha] coming in, it seemed to be the same type of time. We don’t have any control of it.”

Johann van Grann Van Graan at today's Champions Cup launch in Dublin. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With back-to-back inter-pros against Ulster and Leinster preceding the start of the European campaign, Munster face into a crucial period in their season, with Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester first up in Pool 2.

Van Graan believes Mathewson will be a good addition to his squad, with the five-time capped international boasting stints in Super Rugby with Hurricanes, Blues and Western Force on his CV, as well as experience in Europe with Bristol and Toulon.

“He’s been part of training, I think he is an experienced player and that’s why we got him in.

“He’s still in incredible physical nick, I think he brings a lot of calm. At the end of the day, it’s a new player, he’s got to prove his worth on the field, he’s very excited to play once he gets that opportunity and hopefully, he will add to the team.” 

On Murray’s injury, van Graan said the Ireland scrum-half doesn’t want any details disclosed, which will no doubt add to the speculation over when he’ll be fit to return despite Jerry Flannery’s comments earlier in the week suggesting he was making good progress.

“I can’t comment on Conor,” the South African added.

“Upon his request, I can’t comment on his injury. He’s requested that his information remains confidential. I can’t really comment on that.

“I’ve got to respect that. From the first day we’ve handled his injury accordingly. We take care of all of our players very well I believe.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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