Earls recovery gives Irish timely boost
IRISH rugby received some welcome news yesterday when Munster said they are hopeful Keith Earls would be available for their Heineken Cup opener at London Irish this weekend.
With Paul O'Connell, Leo Cullen, Jerry Flannery and Kevin McLaughlin yet to play this season and Stephen Ferris unavailable for the weekend, Earls' progress from the ankle injury he picked up in pre-season (having just recovered from a groin problem) is a timely boost ahead of the November internationals.
"We would hope that he is available for selection this week," confirmed Munster coach Tony McGahan at the Irish Heineken Cup launch in Dublin yesterday. "He did a little bit (of training) last week and he is back again this week. He was very nearly right before he did his ankle a few weeks ago, he was absolutely flying it. That set him back a bit but he should be right to go hopefully."
McGahan expects to have prop Tony Buckley available after recovering from the virus that ruled him out of last Saturday's Magners League defeat to Leinster and the Australian also hopes to have Jerry Flannery available "in the next week or two".
The news on long-term injury victim Paul O'Connell is encouraging also with the Munster captain declaring that his recovery is finally firmly on track and he is confident of being back in action before Christmas.
After Saturday's bruising encounter, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt likened his dressing-room to "a battlefield" but the New Zealander said everyone should be "good to go" for Saturday's clash with Racing Metro at the RDS.
Ulster take on Aironi at Ravenhill and, while coach Brian McLaughlin said Stephen Ferris would be ruled out with a shoulder injury, he is optimistic that BJ Botha will have recovered from the wrist injury picked up against Connacht last Saturday week.
"We are just waiting on an injury report on BJ and we will be in a better position to comment on that tomorrow," McLaughlin said.