Joey Carbery still 'highly unlikely' to face Saracens as Munster take it day by day

By Simon Lewis
Rugby and Golf Correspondent

Tyler Bleyendaal remains on course to start as Munster’s fly-half in this Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens after Johann van Graan revealed that Joey Carbery remains highly unlikely of playing.

Carbery, 23, has played just 35 minutes since February 9, when he steered Ireland to victory as a replacement for Johnny Sexton against Scotland at Murrayfield. The former Leinster fly-half injured his hamstring in Ireland camp the following week and though he started Munster’s European quarter-final against Edinburgh on March 30, Carbery was withdrawn before half-time at Murrayfield as his hamstring problems returned.

Repeating his assessment last week of Carbery’s chances to face Saracens in Coventry this weekend, head coach van Graan on Monday said: "It's still highly unlikely.

“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."

Carbery’s likely absence for the Ricoh Arena showdown puts Bleyendaal in line for a reunion with Saracens, whom he started against in the 2017 semi-final when Munster were defeated 26-10 in Dublin. It was not the New Zealand-born, Irish-qualified out-half’s finest hour but van Graan insisted Bleyendaal did not need a shot at redemption.

“It's a total new game. Two years is a very long time in rugby, a week is a very long time in rugby. So, I think we'll just look at where we are at the moment and build from the previous performances. I thought the team played really well against Cardiff and a lot of changes in the team against Treviso. We'll start again this week building up to a massive European semi-final.”

Both wing Keith Earls and lock Jean Kleyn were expected to return to training either on Monday or Tuesday, after which a decision will be made on their availability. Earls was a late withdrawal before the home win over Cardiff Blues 10 days ago after feeling tightness in a thigh while Kleyn limped out of the game during the second half at Musgrave Park.

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