Munster’s Erasmus looks at options following Francis Saili’s injury

Province hope to replace the centre from in-house but may have to look elsewhere

Munster players performing their warm up during a squad session at UL in Limerick yesterday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Munster players performing their warm up during a squad session at UL in Limerick yesterday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

 

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus says they might have to take another plunge into the transfer market after the loss of Francis Saili for up to four months.

Saili was forced to undergo surgery for a second time on his shoulder injury on Monday and faces a race to be fit to return before Christmas.

Erasmus said switching Keith Earls back into the centre is an option, but he will take a good look at the depth of his squad in Friday’s pre-season warm-up against Zebre, and again the following weekend against Worcester in Cork.

But if he cannot identify a suitable replacement for Saili in-house, he may be forced to look elsewhere.

“I think the next two warm-up games will definitely be a gauge for us to see will we be okay in that area into the season. If we’re not we’ll obviously have to make a plan,” said Erasmus.

An opportunity

“If in these two weeks nobody puts up their hands and really grabs that opportunity then for sure we’ll have to [look at the market].”

Johnny Holland is one player that stepped forward last season and proved his class, eventually forcing his way into the starting No 10 shirt for the run-in.

He is still suffering from a hamstring issue and misses this game, but Tyler Bleyendaal could be fit to return next weekend against Worcester.

And Erasmus could hand a debut to former Limerick minor hurler Conor Fitzgerald, currently one of two fit outhalves in the squad along with Ian Keatley, who could follow his brother Stephen and make his bow with the Munster senior team.

“Young fly-half Conor Fitzgerald is going to do well. He’s been training from the beginning with us but he’s a young guy. He’s going to get an opportunity this weekend and sometimes guys like that get an opportunity and they just take it. There’s also pressure on some guys like that to come and perform all of a sudden. So the potential it’s there but injury-wise it’s a bit of a worry for us.

“Tyler is up to play next weekend against Worcester, so that will be good. Keats is playing this weekend and then Bill Johnston, I think by October he should be fit.”

Without Saili to call on for the first four months of the season, there might be a temptation to push Keith Earls into action in the centre when he becomes available, but Erasmus admits he is reluctant to do so.

Options open

Dan GogginRory ScannellCian Bohane

“When I came here I didn’t think 10 and 13 would be a problem, depth-wise, so it was a bit of a surprise. But otherwise, apart from that, if there wasn’t injuries I think there’s potential in the squad there, but it is a bit of a blow.

“To be honest I thought Earlsie must settle on the wing when I came here, but now the landscape has changed. I don’t think we want to do that until we say: ‘listen boys, you have got an opportunity as centres. You are young guys coming through and one or two guys coming back from injury.

“So if they put up there hands, then he [Earls] can stay at wing where he is most comfortable. That will be first choice. But if push comes to shove and we have to make one or two forced changes then we’ll have to do that. But it’s wonderful to have a guy like him that can slot in there.”

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