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Conor Murray and CJ Stander battling to make Munster's Euro clash

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Conor Murray and CJ Stander are in a race to be fit for Munster's Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens next week.

The province are monitoring the Ireland pair this week and it is unlikely that either will feature against Ulster at Thomond Park on Saturday.

Murray has not played since suffering a shoulder injury when in action for Ireland against Wales more than a month ago.

Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus yesterday conceded that the 'stinger' is more severe than first feared. Although Murray has been reported by the national team and the province to have been close to a return on a weekly basis, the scrum-half has not been available for selection and pulled out of the quarter-final win over Toulouse.

Stander suffered an ankle injury during that comprehensive win and was photographed wearing a protective boot last week.

Erasmus says his No.8 has a better chance of making it back in time, but he was cautiously optimistic of both players making it with just 11 days to go until the sold-out Aviva Stadium clash.

"Conor and CJ, we are trying to get them back, but like last week we are not quite sure if they'll be ready," he said.

"There is change (for Conor), but it is just the speed of recovery. He almost came back for the Ireland game and then the next week and then the next week. I must also accept it is something where it just takes time to heal.

"When you get a stinger it does some damage, I think he did more damage initially than everybody thought. I think the shot, the actual stinger he got, did more damage.

"He has done a lot of work with us, and that's why we must be careful not to get too excited.

"He passes well, he runs with us, he does the patterns with us and a little bit of contact here and there. But I am nervous - they are important players.

"It would be great to have Conor and CJ available because they are world-class players.

"My gut feeling, I think CJ has probably got a better chance than Conor, with the speed of recovery of the two at this stage.

"But then again both of them might be ready or not ready… I have got a gut feeling they have got a good chance, but not this week."

Loosehead prop James Cronin looks a major doubt for the Saracens game having undergone scans on the knee injury he suffered against Glasgow Warriors on Saturday night, while Donnacha Ryan and Tyler Bleyendaal are undergoing the return to play protocols after suffering concussions. Ian Keatley returns.

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