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Positive news on O'Donnell but several Munster players remain long-term absentees

Johann van Graan issued an injury update as the province prepare for their first pre-season friendly this Friday.

TOMMY O’DONNELL HAS returned to full training post shoulder surgery and linked up with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad for their pre-season camp in Carton House over the weekend.

But Munster are preparing for the start of the new campaign without a number of long-term absentees, including Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Farrell, Chris Cloete and Tyler Bleyendaal.

Tommy O'Donnell leaves the field with an injury O'Donnell has been sidelined since March. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

O’Donnell missed the closing stages of last season after going under the knife in March, but has made good progress in his recovery and is in line to be fit for Munster’s Pro14 opener against Cheetahs in three weeks.

The positive injury update on the 31-year-old is, however, offset by the news O’Donoghue remains a number of months away from a return to training, and is unlikely to feature for Munster this side of Christmas.

O’Donoghue suffered knee ligament damage during the first half of Munster’s Pro14 semi-final defeat to Leinster in May and continues to rehab post-surgery at the province’s high performance centre in Limerick.

The timing of the lay-off was a particularly cruel blow for Waterford native O’Donoghue, who had been tipped to tour Australia with Ireland in the summer after a strong season with Munster.

Johann van Graan will also be without Chris Cloete for the first few weeks of the new season after the South African back row pulled up with a groin problem in his comeback from a fractured arm he suffered back in February.

The Munster head coach said Cloete ‘will still be out for quite a bit of time’, while Conor Oliver will be sidelined for 14 weeks after dropping a weight on his toe during a recent gym session.

Farrell, meanwhile, continues to rehab the knee injury he picked up during last year’s Six Nations and Bleyendaal — out since February — remains unavailable as Munster monitor his neck problem.

Johann Van Graan Van Graan speaking to the media in UL this afternoon. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We’ve still got quite a few [injuries], you know Tyler is still rehabbing and we’ll give him as much time as possible,” Van Graan said this afternoon.

The South African coach will have a group of 30 players to work with for Friday’s pre-season friendly against London Irish in Cork, with Jean Kleyn and Rhys Marshall back in training and Niall Scannell (shoulder), Sammy Arnold (knee) and Stephen Archer (pec) moving along with their respective rehab programmes.

“There’s still a big chunk of guys having to rehab and we’ll see gradually filtering back in over the next few weeks,” he added.

Munster will fine-tune their preparations with games against Declan Kidney’s London Irish and Exeter Chiefs over the next two Fridays, before opening their 2018/19 campaign against the Cheetahs at Thomond Park on Saturday 1 September.

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Ryan Bailey

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