Carbery set for Munster return as province prepare for Champions Cup quarter-final

Joey Carbery
By Simon Lewis
Rugby and Golf Correspondent

Munster look set to welcome back Ireland fly-half Joey Carbery for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Edinburgh following a positive update on his fitness from head coach Johann van Graan.

The province began training for the trip to Murrayfield on Monday, with their full squad reunited at their High Performance Centre in Limerick for the first time following Ireland’s Six Nations campaign as Peter O’Mahony, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls and Conor Murray all returned to Munster.

Carbery, 23, has not played since Ireland’s visit to Edinburgh six weeks ago when he replaced an injured Johnny Sexton and steered the national side to victory in round two. Carbery suffered a hamstring injury the following Tuesday in training and he finally appears to be ready to make his return to action this weekend.

“He'll be reintegrated into training this afternoon and we'll see how it goes, but I'm confident he'll be ready for Saturday,” van Graan said on Monday. “He wants to play and wants to be fine, so hopefully, he's available.”

Van Graan was also delighted with the performance of Tyler Bleyendaal last Saturday when the fly-half came off the bench at Thomond Park to guide Munster to a bonus-point Guinness PRO14 victory over Zebre.

Bleyendaal brought impetus to Munster after replacing starting out-half JJ Hanrahan on 51 minutes and appears to be in line to either provide cover for Carbery in Edinburgh or on standby to start if the former Leinster star fails to pass fit.

“I thought Tyler did really well from the bench at the weekend,” van Graan said before adding: “We've got four quality fly-halves with Tyler, JJ and Bill (Johnston). We'll see how the week goes, there's still one or two 50-50s (selection decisions), but I'm delighted for Tyler at the way he played on Saturday.”

Munster will reveal their line-up for a European record 18th quarter-final this Friday at noon with van Graan signalling he will name a starting XV close to the one which started the final Champions Cup pool game win over Exeter Chiefs on January 19. If Carbery is able to start, that leaves a single vacancy with openside flanker Tommy O’Donnell having suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the first half of that game. Jack O’Donoghue and Chris Cloete are frontrunners to fill the position, although van Graan has a number of potential back-row combinations at his disposal.

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