Rassie Erasmus has clarified comments made by Warren Gatland midweek that Conor Murray has suffered "a setback" in his recovery from an injury to his shoulder and neck area.
Speaking at his press conference at the Aviva Stadium this evening, Erasmus explained that Murray had not necessarily suffered a deterioration in his current physical condition, but that the setback was the fact that the injury has taken longer than expected to heal.
Erasmus added that it was impossible to provide an exact date for Murray's return. When asked about Gatland's comments regarding Murray, which seemed to portray the scrum-half as doubtful to tour with the Lions despite being named in the Kiwi coach's 41-man squad, Erasmus responded:
No, there was no setback. The setback is that it is taking so long. That’s the setback, no specific incident happened.
I guess he meant the setback is that in the beginning [the recovery time] was one week, whereas now we are in week six or seven already. The setback is the amount of time it is taking to heal.
In his case, it could be eight or nine weeks. It is really hard to say how quickly the nerve may heal. It's frustrating for him and for us but unfortunately he is not ready for us.
Erasmus also confirmed that Ian Keatley will provide cover at scrum-half on Munster's bench in the absence of Ulster loanee Angus Lloyd and the equally inexperienced Abrie Griesel. In explaining his decision, the South African confirmed that it was "a bit of a risk."
We’ve trained with Ian Keatley covering nine in certain positions and then on defence, we will try to do other things. We just think that in this game, experience is going to be important and big-match temperament is going to be important, so that’s why we made that decision.
Erasmus expressed his hope that Murray would return before the Lions tour, but admitted on more than one occasion that Munster had expected him to be back in action long before tomorrow's mammoth Champions Cup tie with Saracens.
The relief for Munster fans and Lions enthusiasts, however, is that the talk of Murray exacerbating his injury was unfounded.