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Munster confirm positive Covid cases among group who returned to Ireland

Some of the players and staff who arrived back from South Africa have since tested positive.

Munster boss Johann van Graan is still isolating back in Ireland.
Munster boss Johann van Graan is still isolating back in Ireland.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SOME OF THE Munster squad who returned to Ireland from South Africa last Wednesday have since tested positive for Covid-19, the province has confirmed.

A group of 34 players and staff landed back into the country last week after being given the green light by Irish and South African authorities to depart Cape Town.

Munster left 14 players and staff behind in a quarantine hotel in Cape Town after they had tested positive for Covid during the province’s visit to South Africa.

However, Munster have now confirmed that some of the travelling party who returned to Ireland last week have also tested positive for the virus since landing back into the county and entering mandatory self-isolation.

Some of the group have been self-isolating at a hotel in Limerick, with others returning to their homes.

Those positive cases have added another layer of complication to the province’s preparations for Sunday’s Champions Cup clash with Wasps, given that there is some hope that Munster could welcome a handful of players back into their matchday squad after they complete isolation this Saturday.

A separate group of Ireland internationals and promising young players – none of whom travelled to South Africa – have been preparing for the Wasps game under the guidance of academy boss Ian Costello in Limerick over the past two fortnight.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan confirmed that the bulk of this weekend’s matchday 23 will come from that group.

But van Graan, who is among the group still in isolation at present, confirmed that some of the players and coaches who returned from South Africa could still be involved in the trip to Coventry this weekend.

“There’s so many dynamics at play here,” said van Graan this afternoon. “All I will say is that Public Health has been excellent in assisting us. There’s a full PCR testing programme going on.

“There will potentially be certain players available. We’ve got to announce a team on Friday afternoon, we’ve still got to go and get through training after that, so anything is possible at this stage.

“But the main message from myself and all the coaches this week is that the whole focus is on the players in the HPC [high performance centre]. If we need any assistance in terms of selection, we will give that but you have to also look at the bigger picture here.

“Guys have been sitting in their hotel rooms for almost two weeks, at home. Some players are sick, others aren’t. It hasn’t been ideal but we are putting all our effort into the players at the HPC. If we can and need to, we will assist from the outside.”

ian-costello Ian Costello has been running Munster's prep this week. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Munster boss added that “nobody is very sick” as he outlined his pride in how his players have handled this challenge.

Van Graan confirmed that he will pick the team for this weekend but reiterated that Costello is “the man on the ground” at training in Limerick this week.

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Costello returned to Munster from Wasps just last summer, having served as the Premiership club’s defence coach for three seasons.

Wasps are on a five-game losing streak and missing several key players for this weekend, but Costello is expecting a stern challenge.

“They’ll fancy themselves at home,” said Costello. “They’re a really good side on their day despite their form. They’ve got some really good individuals, a really exciting brand of rugby.

“Our focus has to be completely on us because we’re just pulling together as a team at the moment.

“We’re dropping in little bits of information and we’re doing work in the background, but we have a lot to get right ourselves in the next couple days. Later in the week, we’ll take a close look at Wasps.”

Meanwhile, van Graan confirmed that the players and staff who had to remain in South Africa after positive Covid tests are all being well taken care of.

“They’re all in good spirits and we’re all connected,” said van Graan.

“It’s important to know that this isn’t finished, meaning Covid is not going away. Guys are still in hotel rooms at home so this will be an ongoing thing.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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