Conor Murray has signed a new Ireland contract to keep him at Munster until June 2022.
The British and Irish Lions scrum-half is currently sidelined with a neck problem, but the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has moved quickly to secure his services on extended terms.
The 29-year-old has emerged as one of the world’s top half-backs and could command a princely sum overseas, but has committed once again to Munster and Ireland.
England have received a boost ahead of their autumn series after Leicester announced that Jonny May’s shoulder injury is only minor and he could even be available for the weekend’s Champions Cup action.
May was hurt early in the first half of Saturday’s victory over Northampton after running into Teimana Harrison and Alex Waller and was forced to leave the pitch using his jersey as a makeshift sling.
Initial fears that the injury could be serious receded following an X-ray after the game and Tigers interim coach Geordan Murphy on Tuesday delivered another positive update.
“Jonny has a bang on his AC joint which is pretty painful, but there’s no structural damage,” Murphy said.
“We’re hopeful he could be available for the weekend. It’s certainly not a long-term injury.”
May was the standout player during England’s June tour to South Africa where he extended his strike rate to five tries in five matches – the same record he held for Leicester until Saturday’s misfortune.
Eddie Jones could ill-afford to lose his most lethal finisher ahead of the Tests against the Springboks, New Zealand, Japan and Australia that begin on November 3.
England are already missing Anthony Watson until January because of an Achilles issue and on Tuesday it was confirmed that Marland Yarde will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
May’s possible availability for the Champions Cup opener against Ulster on Saturday is a lift to club and country, however.
Scotland flanker David Denton is a doubt for the trip to Belfast as he follows the return to play protocols for concussion after suffering a head injury against Saints at Twickenham.
New Zealand flanker Sam Cane will miss the autumn fixtures against England and Ireland because of a fractured bone in his neck.
Cane suffered the injury during Saturday’s last-gasp victory over South Africa in Pretoria and will miss the All Blacks’ season-ending tour to Japan and Europe.
“Sam has a small fracture in the lower part of his neck, on the right side through one of the joints. This will need to be stabilised with surgery,” New Zealand doctor Tony Page said.
“We’re confident he’ll do well with the operation and then like with any fracture, it will probably take three months for the bone to get strong.
“The operation is to keep everything in the right pace so the bone can heal. Many sportsmen have this injury, as do people from other walks of life, and they usually make a good recovery.”
Cane has accumulated 60 caps and has been New Zealand’s first-choice openside since Richie McCaw’s retirement after the 2015 World Cup.
The All Blacks face England at Twickenham on November 11 and then Ireland in Dublin a week later.