Scrum-half Conor Murray and winger Simon Zebo have handed Munster a double boost ahead of Saturday’s big Heineken Cup clash at Gloucester after both returned to training on Monday.

Coach Rob Penney, set to be offered a one-year contract extension, is hopeful that Murray will be fit enough to start the game after a month out with a knee injury, while Zebo could make the bench after missing 12 weeks of action with a foot problem.

Donncha O’Callaghan, Cathal Sheridan and Damien Varley remain doubtful with knocks picked up in the Rabo Pro12 League game in Belfast last Friday night.

Penney said, “Donncha and Cathal both had knee strains, while Damien has a plantar fascia issue with the sole of his foot.

“There is a chance for Conor, there always was. Hopefully, the work that the medical team has been doing comes to fruition.

“You give them the time to do their work and hopefully they produce the athlete for you at the end of that process and we’re nearing that so hopefully we’ll have him back.”

In other rugby news, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will have to plan without Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien for the forthcoming Six Nations after the Carlow native underwent surgery on his dislocated shoulder after he was injured in the recent Rabo Pro12 League game against Ulster.

Leinster had Gordon D’Arcy to thank for the late try that secured a 16-8 win over Connacht in the Rabo Pro12 derby in Galway on Saturday night. League leaders Munster went down 29-19 to Ulster at Ravenhill on Friday night.

Munster have agreed new contracts with James Cronin, John Ryan and Cathal Sheridan.