Munster and Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony’s popped rib sustained against Gloucester was the only negative as the Irish province took a giant stride towards the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals with a famous win at Kingsholm on Friday night.
O’Mahony may even be a doubt for Ireland’s Six Nations title defence opener at home to England on February 2 after he suffered the rib injury early in the second half of the 41-15 victory at the home of their Pool 2 rivals.
Munster head coach Johann van Graan said medical staff will reassess the injury on Monday when the squad reconvenes in Limerick to begin preparations for the final game of the pool stages, the visit of English Premiership title contenders Exeter Chiefs to Thomond Park next Saturday.
“He’s in a bit of pain,” van Graan said of O’Mahony. “We’ll obviously have to take our time with it and re-assess on Monday. Sometimes it heals quickly and other times not, so I’ve got no update but it’s definitely a popped rib.”
O’Mahony had helped his side reclaim control of the pool as they scored five tries for a bonus-point victory. Munster had lost at Castres in round four and seen their lead cut to three points with all four teams coming into contention to qualify for the knockout stages with two games remaining.
Munster’s win ended Gloucester’s hopes to move to 17 points from five games and another team will fall by the wayside on Sunday when Exeter, on eight points after four, hosts French champions Castres, starting the weekend on nine points.
Only after that game at Sandy Park will van Graan’s side know exactly what they need to do next weekend against the Chiefs to secure a record 18th European quarter-final.
For now, though, they can reflect on a brilliant team performance, perhaps their best on the road in Europe since beating Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop at the quarter-final stage in April 2013.
There were outstanding contributions through the team, not least from Ireland forwards Tadhg Beirne and CJ Stander while all five tries came from the backs with Rory Scannell, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway each scoring and fly-half Joey Carbery grabbing two in a man of the match performance which also saw kick 16 points for a 26-point haul, perfect off the tee with two penalties and five conversions.
“Joey capped it off with a special performance,” van Graan said, “and if I’m not mistaken, he didn’t miss a goal-kick again, that’s three weeks in a row. That’s what wins you games.
“I thought he and Conor (Murray) really played well together tonight and I thought they combined well with Scans and Chris Farrell. I thought Mikey (Haley) at the back was really good and Andrew and Earlsy pounced on the opportunities that came their way. A really good team performance.
“Obviously, we weren’t at our best for Castres away and we gave all the guys a week off, started to regenerate in all facets of play.
“If you’re a 10, you’re going to take some criticism but we knew from day one that he’s here to learn and here to be part of a team. I thought he’d played really well over the last three weeks and to me, his decision making – when to run, when to pass, when to kick, when to show – I thought that was excellent tonight.
“One or two of the plays came off and the one for Andrew’s try that went to the blind, again the decision that he made was so good.”
The Munster boss added: “This whole week was about the squad and about this performance. Everyone put their heart and soul into this one because we knew we needed to get through this one to keep us alive for next week. Then the 23 guys that played their part on the field, I thought all 23 guys did that.”