Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has issued a reassuring update on four of his British and Irish Lions hopefuls following Munster’s emphatic victory over Toulouse in Thomond Park on Saturday.
European knockout rugby returned to the shores of the Shannon once again and in front of a packed house, the two-time Heineken Cup champions rubber stamped their return to the top table of European rugby dynasties by putting the Top 14 side and for time winners of the competition to the sword to secure their semi-final spot.
Prior to the game, fans were rocked by the news that Conor Murray would not line out at scrum-half, having failed to recover in time from the stinger injury he sustained against Wales in the fourth round of the Six Nations last month.
With Duncan Williams stepping in to fill Murray’s boots, he, along with a Munster side brimming with talent and intent, delivered an assured and unrelenting display of commitment and passion, as is the Munster way.
While Toulouse did their best to hang to the coat tails of their hosts, a pair of late tries took the scoreline to 41-16 and out of reach of visitors.
Munster’s victory was tempered however, by the sight of three of their big names leaving the field early through injury. Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Keith Earls had all been delivering their typically dominant performances before various knocks and twinges forced them off.
Following the game, Erasmus sought to allay fan fears by giving a positive outlook on all four of his British and Irish Lions hopefuls.
Reported by the Irish Independent, Erasmus revealed,
“Three weeks ago he [Conor] almost played for Ireland. It’s a waiting game, a matter of him getting more power into his arm.
“We thought until Friday’s Captain’s Run he’d make it. But he’s not 34, it’s not his last game and hopefully he’ll be back soon.”
“Keith I don’t think it’s serious, it’s back pain, CJ hurt his ankle, Peter was a massive blow to his upper thigh. A dead leg, a massive dead leg.
“The tough thing for us is to manage the squad. We have to manage the games, we’re in a semi-final and the upcoming (Pro12 games) we’ll have to rest players here and there.
“We’ll keep Europe in the back of our heads. Hopefully those guys will be available, I’m not sure.”
Munster welcome Glasgow to Thomond next weekend in the Pro 12 and will be looking to maintain their push for a home semi-final spot with only four league games left.
The red province will find out on Sunday if they will face Saracens or Glasgow in the Champions Cup semi-final in three weeks time.
In the meantime, fans wait anxiously for the next update on the health of their Lions hopefuls.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena