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Murray already out, now Munster sweat after injury to another scrum-half

Alby Mathewson is having a scan on the knee injury he suffered against Leinster at the weekend.

MUNSTER HAVE BEEN hit with a fresh injury blow ahead of their Heineken Champions Cup opener against Exeter Chiefs this Saturday, with All Black scrum-half Alby Mathewson now a major doubt for the trip to Sandy Park [KO 3.15pm, BT Sport].

Mathewson limped out of the province’s inter-pro derby defeat to Leinster at the weekend, and Munster have today confirmed the 32-year-old will undergo a scan to determine the extent of his knee injury.

Munster's Alby Mathewson Mathewson suffered a knee injury on Saturday. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

With Conor Murray sidelined indefinitely with an unspecified neck problem and both Neil Cronin and James Hart also injury absentees, Johann van Graan can ill-afford to lose Mathewson’s experience for the Pool 2 opener, with Duncan Williams the only other senior nine available.

“Hopefully we’ll know later today or tomorrow, but he is a concern, yes,” van Graan said this afternoon.

When asked who’ll be in if the Kiwi doesn’t come through in time, the Munster head coach ruled out any possibility of Murray returning.

“Duncan Williams — he also took a hit to the leg, but he should be fine. We’ve got Jack Stafford who played pretty well for the A team, he should be the next guy in line.

“Like I said, we’ll give Alby as much time until we know more. That’s the beauty of the squad. The next guy is in and you’ve got to perform.”

Academy scrum-half Stafford, who made three Pro14 appearances last term, could be in line for his European debut after the 21-year-old made a good impression during the pre-season period. 

Mathewson — signed on a short-term deal as injury cover for Murray — made his Munster debut in the hammering of Ulster a fortnight ago and was again impressive at the Aviva Stadium at the weekend, providing van Graan’s side with an extra spark and energy, while also scoring his first try in red shortly before his enforced departure.

There was, however, more encouraging news provided on the fitness of hooker Rhys Marshall and tighthead John Ryan, as both will return to training this week ahead of the start of the European campaign.

Kiwi Marshall and Ireland international Ryan have both been sidelined since the round three defeat of Ospreys in Cork and their return bolsters van Graan’s options in the front row. 

Tyler Bleyendaal Tyler Bleyendaal will resume full training this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Meanwhile, Tyler Bleyendaal will return to full training with the Munster squad at their University of Limerick base this week as he continues his comeback from a serious neck injury.

The out-half hasn’t played since February but has made positive progress in his recovery in recent weeks, and will start taking contact again as he nears a full return to action. 

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Elsewhere, Calvin Nash suffered an ankle injury while playing for Munster ‘A’ on Friday night and will undergo an MRI today to determine the extent of his injury. 

Liam O’Connor (knee), Conor Oliver (toe), Jack O’Donoghue (knee), Murray (neck), Cronin (shoulder), Hart (knee), Chris Farrell (knee) and Ronan O’Mahony (ankle) remain long-term absentees. 

Van Graan was asked for an update on Murray’s fitness on Saturday: “I can’t comment on Conor at this stage. As soon as we know anything I’ll let you guys know.”

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Ryan Bailey

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