Van Graan sweating on Carbery return for Euro test

By Simon Lewis
Rugby and Golf Correspondent

Joey Carbery has emerged as a major doubt for Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Edinburgh Rugby in 11 days after returning from Ireland’s Six Nations camp.

The fly-half missed the last three rounds of the Guinness Six Nations championship due to a hamstring injury and although national head coach Joe Schmidt said the 23-year-old had been “incredibly close” to returning to training last week, Munster boss Johann van Graan said yesterday the former Leinster star was unlikely to face Zebre in the Guinness PRO14 this Saturday and that he was only ‘hopeful’ he would be able train next week.

Asked if Carbery would be ready for the European quarter-final at Murrayfield on March 30, van Graan said: “I don’t want to speculate. I hope that he’ll be back for next week’s game. It’s a bit early to say whether I expect him to be back, I really hope he’s back. He’s going to be with our medical team this week and hopefully we can get him into some rugby this week or next week.”

As for Carbery facing Zebre this Saturday at Thomond Park, the Munster head coach said: “Not at this stage. Obviously like I said, he is only just back so our medical team will have a look at him. All things being equal, he’s in a very good mental space and hopefully, he’ll be back on the pitch soon.

“He is a very important player in our wheel at this stage, his goal kicking and the energy that he brings, he is a player that made a big difference to our team so we really hope he is going to be ready for Edinburgh.”

Munster’s Irish contingent will return to the province at different points over the next two weeks as van Graan is guided by the IRFU’s player welfare guidelines following the Six Nations campaign.

The frontline stars such as Peter O’Mahony, who played every minute of all five games in this year’s championship, and fellow starters Keith Earls and Conor Murray will not be expected back until the beginning of next week to re-integrate ahead of the trip to Edinburgh.

Yet there are other squad members, such as Tadhg Beirne, Andrew Conway, and Chris Farrell, in need of game time after playing minor parts in Ireland’s campaign.

“We’ll take it case by case. Joey and Chris Farrell are in today,” van Graan said. “Obviously they weren’t involved over the weekend and Joey is rehabbing with our medical team. During the week there’ll be four or five guys joining back up. Next Monday the rest of the guys will be back.

“I think it’s important that they’re mentally fresh and ready to go, that they’ve regrouped. Debrief every single one and look at their individual needs and look also to what’s on each for the week.

“We’ve got an important game coming up on Saturday night and it’s four points up for grabs and four points that we desperately want to stay in the race for a possible first-place finish in the conference. We’ve been in communication with all of the lads during the Six Nations and everybody is keen to come back and look forward to the rest of the season with Munster.”

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