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Carbery still 'highly unlikely' for Munster as Earls and Kleyn look to prove fitness

Tyler Bleyendaal is set to wear Munster’s number 10 shirt against Saracens.

OUT-HALF JOEY Carbery remains highly unlikely to feature in Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens in Coventry on Saturday, although Keith Earls and Jean Kleyn are expected back in full training early this week.

Ireland international Carbery is struggling with a hamstring injury and looks almost certain to miss out, paving the way for Tyler Bleyendaal to wear Munster’s number 10 shirt this weekend. 

Joey Carbery Carbery has a hamstring injury. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s still highly unlikely,” said Munster head coach Johann van Graan today of the prospect of Carbery recovering in time to face Saracens.

“We’ll just take it day by day and then make a final call later in the week. Like I said last week, we won’t take any chances with him. If he’s ready, he’s ready. If he’s not, then we won’t take that chance.” 

Bleyendaal impressed off the bench in Munster’s quarter-final win over Edinburgh after Carbery was forced off injured, and the Kiwi is now in line to take over at out-half versus Saracens.

JJ Hanrahan had a superb game for Munster in last weekend’s impressive Pro14 win over Benetton and is likely to provide back-up to Bleyendaal in Coventry.

Meanwhile, Earls and Kleyn are expected to return to full training either this afternoon or tomorrow morning as they look to prove their fitness for the Saracens game after minor injuries.

Earls withdrew from the win over Cardiff Blues two weekends ago as a precaution with left thigh tightness, while second row Kleyn has been dealing with a leg injury since that victory in Cork. 

Lock Fineen Wycherley is facing a scan on the hamstring injury he suffered against Benetton, meaning the 21-year-old is highly unlikely to be involved on Saturday.

Munster’s victory in Treviso last weekend, achieved without most of the front-liners who will start against Saracens, provided them with a timely injection of fresh momentum as several squad players put their hands up for inclusion against Saracens.

“A lot of our starters rested last week or did some individual training, some team training,” said van Graan.

“There are a lot of guys who put up their hands, a few 50-50 calls we need to make. We’ll see how our guys come through the week.

“I’m really glad for the squad, it was very important for us to go and get that victory. It just showed that when you back your squad, they reward the team with a performance like that.”

Saracens will provide a stern test of Munster’s credentials in this semi-final, two years on from their victory over the Irish province in the Aviva Stadium at this stage of the competition.

Mark McCall’s side have had some controversy to deal with in recent days after number eight Billy Vunipola defended ex-Wallabies fullback Israel Folau.

Van Graan declined to comment on Vunipola, who was booed by Bristol fans when he came off the bench for Saracens in the Premiership last weekend, but had strong praise for the quality of McCall’s team.

“They’ve been the team of the Champions Cup thus far, haven’t lost a game yet,” said van Graan. “Played some fantastic rugby, scored the most tries. They’ve got a lot of world-class players in their team so we’re definitely up against a massive challenge away from home on Saturday afternoon.

“If you get into the last four of Europe, it’s not supposed to be easy. We’re looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to measuring ourselves against one of the top teams.”  

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Murray Kinsella

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