Munster may be set to welcome back-rowers Tommy O?Donnell and Donnacha Ryan into the selection pool for Saturday?s make or break Heineken Cup pool clash with Perpignan.
The bad news surrounding scrum-half Conor Murray?s six-week recovery period from medial ligament damage to his right knee suffered in the first half of last Sunday?s home victory over their French Pool 6 rivals has been tempered by O?Donnell?s successful comeback for Munster A in last weekend?s British & Irish Cup defeat at Plymouth Albion.
The Munster Player of the Year for last season had been out of action since late September when he injured a knee against Zebre, but he returned to play in England last Friday night and put in a 32-minute shift off the bench in a 17-7 defeat.
Now O?Donnell looks set for a return to the first team for the trip to Stade Aim? Giral after head coach Rob Penney confirmed his availability.
?He?s come back into contention, certainly,? Penney said of O?Donnell, while the New Zealand-born coach also did not rule out a sooner than expected return this weekend for Ryan, who damaged his knee in the Heineken Cup round two victory over Gloucester in October.
?Donnacha Ryan made good progress last week. He?s got some more work to do in the early part of this week and it?s not likely [he will face Perpignan] but it?s not out of the realms of possibility,? Penney said.
Munster are unlikely to bring in an extra hooker to the squad following Mike Sherry?s long-term injury suffered against Dragons on November 29.
Penney can add a front row player to his registered Heineken Cup squad but is happy to rely on the already nominated Duncan Casey and Niall Scannell as back-up to Damien Varley.
?We were always excited about Duncan Casey and Niall Scannell?s been playing for the As and Ireland U20s. We won?t be looking outside the group at this point, unless we have another disaster somewhere.?
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By Simon Lewis
Irish Examiner Reporter