Mounting injury list a problem for Van Graan and Munster
Bleyendaal and Williams ruled out for the season and Earls also facing a lengthy lay-off
Keith Earls is helped off during Ireland’s Grand Slam match against England at Twickenham. The Munster wing could face a long layoff. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images.
Munster’s quest for silverware has been rocked with the loss of Tyler Bleyendaal and Duncan Williams for the rest of the season, while Keith Earls is expected to face a lengthy lay-off due to a knee ligament injury.
Bleyendaal was forced to have surgery after a recurrence of his neck injury, while a training ground accident saw Williams sustain a fractured cheekbone and eye socket, which will sideline him until the summer.
Earls picked up a knee injury during Ireland’s Grand Slam-clinching win over England at Twickenham and coach Johann van Graan admitted he will be out for a lengthy period, which means he is a huge doubt to face Toulon in the Champions Cup.
Shorter-term concerns surround Simon Zebo (hamstring), Rory Scannell (shoulder), Andrew Conway (knee) and Alex Wootton (hip), but added to long-term absentees Chris Farrell, Chris Cloete and Jaco Taute, Munster’s backline now has a threadbare look.
Neck and quad injuries have restricted Bleyendaal to just 39 appearances in three seasons, but van Graan firmly sees him as a key figure for Munster – although he expected the New Zealander to be out for the next four months.
“Look he came through recovery, cleared all the medical tests, came from the bench against Cardiff, played 65 minutes against Glasgow and came through that game perfectly well. Some symptoms re-emerged and he got seen by a specialist and they decided to go for the surgery and that’s the facts,” said van Graan.
“Tyler is firstly a quality individual, the thing that impressed me most about him is the person that he is and his rugby knowledge and the way he keeps the team calm. He sees the game in slow motion.
“He’s a key part of Munster. He was our player of the year last year, he started most of the big games and obviously it’s very disappointing for the team and for himself that he’s out for a long time now.”
With the treatment room busy, Munster could do with the Ireland squad members returning immediately, but instead internationals Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and CJ Stander will have a week off.
Ian Keatley is expected to be available for Saturday’s clash with Scarlets in Thomond Park, but van Graan is hoping that his gut instinct is not proven correct regarding Earls’s injury.
“Keith Earls is probably out for a long time, we are still waiting for the feedback on him,” said the coach.
“I spoke to him personally. He was in a lot of pain. If you just looked at the clip, he seems to be in a bit of trouble and knowing Earlsie he is quite a tough man.
“He has been through a lot and just watching the footage if you look at him celebrating in the circle afterwards he jumped on one leg. I don’t have any medical confirmation at this stage, but I fear he is going to be out for quite a long time.”
Jean Kleyn is also a doubt for the weekend due to concussion, although on a bright note, Niall Scannell has returned to training following his rib injury and is expected to face Scarlets this weekend.