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All indications are that Munster's clash with Wasps will go ahead as scheduled
The bulk of Johann van Graan’s senior squad are still in South Africa.

ALL THE CURRENT indications suggest that tournament organisers are extremely keen for Munster’s Champions Cup clash with Wasps to proceed as scheduled on Sunday 12 December.

Right now, it remains unclear whether or not the 34 Munster players still in isolation in South Africa will be available for that game against Wasps.

Though Munster have been given the green light to return home – apart from one player who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday and one close contact – there is no detail yet on when they will be able to depart. Right now, they’re waiting for results from their latest round of PCR testing.

As things stand, Munster will have to isolate for 10 days on arrival back in Ireland, as well as returning two negative PCR results during that period. 

It’s uncertain whether or not Munster – who also have 14 members of coaching and backroom staff in South Africa – would be able to train during the isolation period or whether they would be fully confined to their hotel rooms. 

The hope is that Munster will be able to fly out of South Africa by Wednesday morning and then stay in their own bubble for 10 days upon arriving home, with team training allowed. Right now, that’s the ideal scenario for Johann van Graan and co.

It not, it would be a huge ask for Munster’s players to pitch up against Wasps in a European tie. 

However, the current sense is that Champions Cup organisers EPCR would be loath to call off the southern province’s clash with Wasps. Last season saw a number of games cancelled due to Covid-19 and the awarding of five match points on a 28-0 scoreline to the clubs not responsible for the cancellations simply didn’t sit well.

Rescheduling fixtures in an already jam-packed rugby calendar is also seen as a less than desirable option and very difficult to do. 

shane-daly-and-simon-zebo Gordon Arons / INPHO Munster training in South Africa last week. Gordon Arons / INPHO / INPHO

There is a strong desire on all the clubs’ part to bring in matchday revenue from fixtures going ahead. Munster will certainly be viewing their home clash against Castres on Saturday 18 December as an important financial marker.

With all of that in mind, there is a feeling that EPCR will do everything in its power to ensure Munster’s meeting with Wasps goes ahead.

That may extend to helping Munster in their bid to simply have enough players – and players of sufficient quality – to fulfill the fixture.

This week in Limerick, Munster academy boss Ian Costello is leading training with his academy players and a group of Ireland internationals who were on holiday last week after being involved in Andy Farrell’s camp over the autumn Tests.

Captain Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne, Dave Kilcoyne, and Keith Earls would certainly provide Munster with a strong, experienced spine if they do have to play Wasps without the rest of their senior squad. Craig Casey is the only Ireland player who flew out late to South Africa.

Springboks centre Damian de Allende is also back in Munster after the November Tests.

Munster’s current registered European squad includes hookers Declan Moore and Scott Buckley, back rows John Hodnett and Daniel Okeke, scrum-halves Rowan Osborne and Ethan Coughlan, props Mark Donnelly and James French, locks Eoin O’Connor and Paddy Kelly, and back three players Calvin Nash, Conor Philips and Jonathan Wren.

That would leave Munster with 20 players – injury permitting – if the contingent currently in South Africa were unable to be involved against Wasps.

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However, it’s understood that EPCR may be willing to explore the possibility of Munster registering additional players in order to ensure the fixture is played. It would require the French and English leagues to agree to such late changes, which could prove to be a stumbling block.

johann-van-graan-during-the-warm-up Ryan Byrne / INPHO Johann van Graan is with Munster in South Africa. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The42 understands that Munster have considered the prospect of bringing in additional players if required, including potentially asking the other Irish provinces for a handful of players on loan. 

Understandably, the front row has been a big focus given the lack of experienced options not currently in South Africa, aside from Kilcoyne. 

There is also the possibility of Munster calling on some of the talented players in their All-Ireland League clubs if they require additional bodies to play against Wasps.

Of course, it might be that Munster’s touring party in South Africa manage to get home in the next two days, meaning they can complete their 10-day period of isolation and play against Wasps.

There is also still the outside possibility that the game won’t go ahead as planned.

But as things stand, Munster, Wasps, and the EPCR are all proceeding as if this game is being played on Sunday 12 December.

After all of this turmoil, the odds will be against Munster, but it really would be typical of them to go and record another famous European win on the road.

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