Conor Murray’s neck injury may not be as bad as initially feared and while a date has not been set for his return, Munster forwards coach Jerry Flannery said the scrum-half was progressing well.
It remains to be seen how long the Irish scrum-half will be out for but Flannery reported some positive developments.
"He is progressing well, it’s positive and we are seeing more and more of him on the pitch. He is beginning to start taking contact and things like that, so that’s good."
Asked if Murray would be available for the start of the Heineken Champions Cup campaign in less than three weeks, Flannery said: "I don’t know yet it is a bit early."
But while Murray might be poised to give Munster a badly needed lift after their poor showing in Cardiff at the weekend, hooker Rhys Marshall could be set for spell on the sideline.
The 25-year old, Munster’s top try scorer so far in this campaign with three touchdowns, was due to undergo a scan yesterday for a calf injury, amid fears he could be out for a few weeks.
"He injured his calf and he’s getting a scan and they are just progressing with that now," said Flannery, speaking at Munster’s weekly press conference at their High Performance Centre at University of Limerick.
"Niall Scannell is returning to training this week along with Kevin O’Byrne and Billy Holland. Keith Earls is back training."
Munster are still waiting on a work permit for Alby Matheson, the former All Black scrum-half who has been signed on a short-term deal while Murray is injured. Matheson, capped five times by New Zealand, has been training with the Munster squad for the past few weeks but can’t play until his work permit comes through.
Tyler Bleyendaal, out with a neck injury since February, is being layered back into full training.
"He hasn’t been doing full contact yet but is there or thereabouts," added Flannery.
The former Munster and Ireland hooker said they were looking to bounce back against Ulster on Saturday after a disappointing performance away to Cardiff at the weekend.
"Some of our detail was off, our skill execution areas in the set-piece that we are going to work on this week so that they don’t happen against Ulster.
"Defensively, it’s a case of sometimes guys need to make their tackles. Your defensive system puts people in position where they have to make one-on-one tackles and if they don’t make them the opposition are going to score. It’s as simple as that.
"We played a Cardiff team that had lost three games and conceded 37 points. So, of course people should be anxious with Leinster and Europe coming up. That’s why Ulster this week is so important. We have to make a statement.
"The good thing is that it’s at home and we have to put in a real positive performance and get the supporters having belief in us. You like to think that when people go to games, they will see good effort. I think we tried at the week-end but effort alone won’t win you games. The one thing is that our effort will never drop. It’s just a case of our performance on the field not being good enough."
Munster’s struggles at the weekend were in sharp contrast to the lethal finishing of Simon Zebo, who notched his fifth try in his last four games for Racing 92 in their win on Sunday over champions Castres.
Flannery was asked if he winced at Zebo’s form or lamented that the Cork native not long played for Munster.
"No, because he doesn't play for us anymore. I would not be wincing about any other player out there who is playing well. It is not really a point for me. I don't consider anyone that is not playing for Munster."