Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# concerns
Munster's Conor Murray and Rory Scannell are 'big doubts' to face Saracens
Darren Sweetnam was another to pick up an injury in the win over Ulster.

Murray Kinsella reports from Thomond Park

RORY SCANNELL IS a major injury worry for Munster ahead of next weekend’s Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens after limping off with an ankle issue in today’s 22-20 Pro12 win over Ulster at Thomond Park.

Munster players celebrate Keith Earls try Ryan Byrne / INPHO Munster had cause to celebrate today but have fresh injury concerns. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

With key men CJ Stander and Conor Murray still on the comeback trail – and the scrum-half looking increasingly doubtful for next weekend – Munster boss Rassie Erasmus could have done with a clean bill of health from the clash at Thomond Park today.

But inside centre Scannell was helped off in the second half, while right wing Darren Sweetnam departed after sustaining concussion in the very first tackle of the win over Ulster.

Scrum-half Duncan Williams was also withdrawn from the game before kick-off, having strained his groin during the captain’s run on Friday, only adding to the concerns in the scrum-half position for Erasmus.

There is optimism about number eight Stander returning to face Saracens, but the outlook for Murray is not good and now influential midfielder Scannell joins him as a big doubt.

“Rory went off with his ankle, “said Erasmus post-match at Thomond Park. “He went off and I think it’s pretty serious.

“We’ll have to check it in the next 24 hours and we’ll probably only have clarity on that on Monday, but Rory wouldn’t come off, especially because we didn’t have a backs sub on the bench. I can’t tell you now but he would be a big worry.”

Stander was interviewed pitchside at Thomond Park before kick off and indicated that he feels he will be ready to face Sarries, which Erasmus echoed. However, the outlook for Murray is not as positive.

“CJ, I think, is relatively good,” said Erasmus. “Conor, I’m not sure. He’s not healing like we would have liked him to heal. It’s slower and I think he will be a big doubt for next week.”

Rassie Erasmus Tommy Dickson / INPHO Erasmus will have worries about a number of his key men this week. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

The withdrawal of Williams would appear to have been reflective of that fact, and Erasmus said that while Munster were totally focused on beating Ulster today, Williams would have played had this been the Saracens clash.

“Duncan pulled up yesterday with his groin in the captain’s run. We wanted to win this game desperately to have some breathing space in the Pro12, so if Duncan was fully fit we would have played him.

“I don’t think Duncan is a doubt [for Saracens], that’s why when he pulled up yesterday it was mostly precautionary. If it was the Saracens game this week, Duncan would definitely have played.”

As for wing Sweetnam, Erasmus confirmed he had failed his HIA after being replaced early on by Andrew Conway and must now go through the regular return-to-play protocols to prove his fitness before next weekend.

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“Darren got a head knock. You could see immediately that he had to go for a HIA check, it was quite obvious. He will go through the process like Tyler [Bleyendaal] and Donnacha [Ryan] did and hopefully pass those.

“If he does, he’ll be up for selection because of his form the whole season. The one minute he played today, he did nothing wrong! So hopefully he’s ok for next Saturday.”

Out-half Tyler Bleyendaal was pulled from Munster’s starting team against Ulster today – replaced by Ian Keatley – but he came off the bench early in the second half.

The Kiwi’s solid stint eased any fears over his fitness after returning from a head injury, and Erasmus said there is nothing to worry about in that regard.

“Tyler had a bit of a tummy bug, his stomach was a bit upset. He didn’t train the whole week because he had to pass all the HIA steps and then this morning he didn’t feel well.

“Getting Keats to play 40 and with Tyler not being 100%, it made sense with a new 9-10 combination, let’s go with that and see how the boys go. When Tyler came on, he stuck with it and played well.”

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