covid chaos | 

Munster’s handed welcome boost by a change in Champions Cup registration rules

Munster coach Johann van Graan at Dublin Airport after arriving home from their trip to South Africa. Photo: Mark Condron

Munster coach Johann van Graan at Dublin Airport after arriving home from their trip to South Africa. Photo: Mark Condron

Ruaidhri O’Connor

MUNSTER will be able to draft in players from outside their European squad for their opening Champions Cup clash against Wasps next Sunday after organisers changed the rules in the wake of their recent travails.

The Irish province, Scarlets and Cardiff are all facing into the opening round without a significant portion of their squads as a result of the travel restrictions imposed after the discovery of the omincron variant of Covid-19 in South Africa last week.

Cardiff are still in Cape Town, while 14 members of Munster’s travelling party remained behind when the rest of the squad came home yesterday.

Those who did return are isolating at home, while the internationals and young players who didn’t travel are training in the University of Limerick under the stewardship of Ian Costello who runs their Academy.

Peter O'Mahony, Tadhg Beirne, Dave Kilcoyne, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway are all expected to be available after not travelling to South Africa where Munster were due to play the Bulls and the Lions before things changed.

It is believed that injured players Chris Farrell and Roman Salanoa could be fit enough to play a role against Waps, but it seems unlikely that the quarantining players would be allowed to take the field so soon after their period in isolation, with no access to proper training facilities.

Munster can now look at registering Academy talents who could supplement their existing squad, while they may turn to the Energia All Ireland League for extra help.

Organisers European Professional Club Rugby consulted with the three participating leagues before deciding to extend their unlimited registration period until Wednesday.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen this afternoon shared his sympathies with the Munster situation.

“It's hard to watch it unfold really. I'm just imagining us in that situation and what we would do in that scenario,” he said.

“I don't know all the details but it's a very difficult situation for any team to manage from a management point of view, players, families, welfare etc.

“So it's great to see they are back, I believe Cardiff are still out there so they're probably the ones that are most affected, and there's a number of Munster players still out there as well.

“We just hope they all get back as soon as possible and after whatever quarantine, on they go in terms of reintegrating.

“Our thoughts were with all the relevant people because it's pot luck in terms of the fixtures, any of the teams could have been down there at this time, so you've got to feel for the people that are there.”

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