Munster’s Keith Earls and James Cronin out until next year
Johann van Graan has backed Tyler Bleyendaal to return as soon as next week
Keith Earls: A two-month stint on the sidelines means he could struggle to make the January 12th date with Racing 92 in the Champions Cup. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
New head coach Johann van Graan was handed a watching brief as Munster trained at UL this week, but he will be concerned with some significant injuries to his squad ahead of a key point of the season.
Keith Earls and James Cronin will play no further part in Munster’s 2017 plans due to hamstring and calf tears, while half-back pairing Tyler Bleyendaal and Duncan Williams will miss Sunday’s away clash with Zebre. Tommy O’Donnell is another player ruled out of that trip to Parma.
A two-month stint on the sidelines for Earls means he could struggle to make the January 12th date with Racing 92 in the Champions Cup.
Earls left the Ireland camp ahead of the South Africa test, but coach Jerry Flannery revealed he would be out for some time.
“Earlsey is going to be out. He is not going to be available for the foreseeable future,” said Flannery, who will take charge of Munster this Sunday along with Felix Jones.
“It’ll be another seven or eight weeks anyway with his hamstring. Whether it progresses better as it gets closer I don’t know. I think initially it was around a two to three month injury from what I understood. I think now it’s coming in possible around two months.
“It’s [a hamstring tear] quite bad. It’s disappointing because Earlesy was in great form. But on the positive side it’s the one area if we were to lose a player we have got depth there. But obviously Keith Earls is one of the best players in the world, so we don’t want to lose him. But that’s rugby.”
With Bleyendaal struggling to recapture last season’s scintillating form in recent games, and now working his way through another neck injury, Flannery must have been delighted to see Ian Keatley taking his chance for Ireland and Munster recently.
But the coach has backed Bleyendaal to return as soon as next week, while he has plenty of options to call on if, as expected, Keatley is not released from the Ireland squad. “It’s the fact that he has had a fusion in there [the neck] before. That means we are being extra cautious with it. The medics seem to be happy enough with how it’s progressing, so that’s good enough for me.
“I can only take what the medics give me. I’m not a doctor. They said ‘listen, Tyler is progressing well’ and they are happy with him, and he is fairly confident with him himself.
“We would hope Tyler would be available possibly maybe Ospreys next week or into Europe.”
There was some positive news for Munster this week with the arrival of Johann van Graan, although Flannery and Felix Jones will take charge of the team this week as the South African settles in.
Backrow Jack O’Donoghue has shaken off an ankle injury, although Munster could be a little shorthanded at scrumhalf, with Duncan Williams ruled out this weekend due to a shoulder injury. That should mean a first start for summer signing James Hart.