Mako Vunipola Munster and Connacht resources already stretched as European action looms

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It seems far too soon for European rugby but it is upon us. That is the general unspoken consensus as the Irish provinces struggle to cope with mounting injury lists in the wake of the World Cup misadventure in Japan.

Munster and Connacht are in particular bother with the western province facing a full-scale second row crisis now that Sean O’Brien (shoulder) and Ultan Dillane (back) have joined Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux in the infirmary.

An update on the seriousness of Ireland prop Dave Kilcoyne’s injury, suffered while scrummaging in Limerick last week, is due on Monday.

Johann van Graan has a serious decision to make. So big it could require signing off by IRFU high performance director David Nucifora because Munster are heading into the Champions Cup, away to the Ospreys on Saturday, with one established outhalf now that JJ Hanrahan (hamstring) and Joey Carbery (ankle) are both unavailable.

Tyler Bleyendaal, who is Irish qualified, was called into action after just 29 minutes of Saturday’s 22-16 Pro14 victory over Ulster at Thomond Park when Hanrahan was forced off with a suspected tear following Matt Faddes’ marginally late tackle (deemed legal by the match officials).

“It looks like a hammy,” said the Munster coach. “Straight away after that late hit our doctor said he’s got to come off. We will scan the hamstring on Monday and know more then. Obviously it is a big concern for us with Joey out as well.”

Van Graan did not rule out adding a foreign outhalf to their European roster but Nucifora might prefer to offer assistance from inside the Irish system with Harry Byrne a potential short term solution. Byrne, younger brother of Ross, has already featured four times for Leinster this season but the expected return of Johnny Sexton could see him drop to fourth choice behind Ciarán Frawley.

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