Timely boost for Munster as Keith Earls returns against rock bottom Zebre

After two away losses – to Glasgow and Connacht – the southern province expected to get back to winning ways

Munster’s Keith Earls returns after injury. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Munster’s Keith Earls returns after injury. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

As their critical trek to Saracens looms on the horizon, Munster have been afforded a timely shot in the arm with the return to fitness of Keith Earls, one of their players with real X factor.

The 27-year-old has recovered from a knee injury sustained at an Ireland training camp during preseason and should thus make his 99th competitive appearance for his native province off the bench. Loosehead James Cronin has also recovered from the shoulder injury he sustained in the European Cup defeat at home to Clermont to also be named on the bench.

In total, Anthony Foley makes seven personnel changes from the side that started in the defeat away to Connacht. Eusebio Guinazu, in his first start for the province at loose- head, Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Archer, form a new frontrow with Dave Foley reinstated in the secondrow as Paul O’Connell is rested, and Dave O’Callaghan makes his first start since returning from injury at blindside with Peter O’Mahony moving to openside. The hugely influential Conor Murray also returns from injury while the return of Felix Jones means Simon Zebo reverts to his familiar left-wing slot.

Bottom of table

Having won their first four Pro12 games on the road, Foley’s men have come unstuck on their last two forays – to Glasgow and Connacht – this would seem like an opportune time for Munster to rediscover their away form.

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