Munster welcome Ireland contingent to their ranks to face Zebre on Saturday

By Simon Lewis
Rugby and Golf Correspondent

Munster looked set to welcome back some of their Ireland contingent on Monday as the province prepares to begin its final push for a Guinness PRO14 home semi-final.

Johann van Graan’s team welcome Zebre to Thomond Park this Saturday night as they attempt to rebound from a narrow loss at Scarlets a fortnight ago when Glasgow Warriors regained top spot in Conference A.

With four games left of the regular season Munster trail the Scots by three points and are 11 points ahead of both Connacht and Cardiff Blues while head coach van Graan also has to build towards a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Edinburgh on March 30.

Having started all five of Ireland’s Six Nations games, frontline stars Conor Murray, Keith Earls and Peter O’Mahony will not be expected back before next week’s build-up to the European knockout clash but van Graan did welcome back centre Chris Farrell to training in Limerick today while the likes of wing Andrew Conway, lock Tadhg Beirne and prop John Ryan could also be in the frame for an instant return this weekend.

Fly-half Joey Carbery’s fitness will be monitored after missing Ireland’s last two fixtures with a hamstring injury but, otherwise, van Graan reported only knocks and bruises, "nothing serious" from the national team’s defeat to Grand Slam champions Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

“Some will be in this week and some will be in next week so we’ll handle each one separately according to their needs,” van Graan said. “We’ve got to rest certain guys and some guys need a well-deserved break and building up for the next block of games.

“We’ll take stock of the Irish lads coming back. It’s about finding the balance over the next 10 weeks but most importantly getting a win against Zebre at home.

“It’s four points on offer at home and four points we’ve got to work hard for and if there’s a bonus point available we’ll go for that as well.

“Most importantly, it’s a new rugby game at the start of a new block. We haven’t been together as a team for quite a bit of time now. We’re second in our conference in the PRO14 and we’ve got to keep up to Glasgow so exciting times ahead.”

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