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Saturday 19 April 2014

Earls winning race to be fit for Clermont showdown

Munster's Keith Earls

MUNSTER'S Keith Earls is winning his fitness race for Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final against Clermont Auvergne in France.

Team captain Doug Howlett will, however, play no part in the game as he continues his rehab from the shoulder injury sustained in Munster's Pro12 loss to Glasgow Warriors at the end of March.

The positive news of Earls (right) is a huge fillip to the squad ahead of the trip to Montpellier. The winger has defied medical predictions with the speed of his recovery from the shoulder injury he sustained playing for Ireland in the Six Nations in March.

He had been poised to play a part in the Pro12 game against Leinster 10 days ago but tweaked a hamstring in training on the Tuesday.

Earls has recovered quickly from that injury too and, if he comes through training this week without any further issues, he is likely to be included in the starting team in place of Denis Hurley.

The 25-year-old trained with the squad in Limerick yesterday and is expected to take a full part in today's training spin in Cork.

Munster will also wait until later this week before making a call on the availability of second-row Donncha O'Callaghan. He suffered a graded tear of knee ligaments in the loss to Leinster.

That injury usually requires between three and five weeks of recovery but O'Callaghan is another who has been defying medical convention with his rehab. He has given himself every possible chance of making the game.

Ireland tighthead prop Stephen Archer is definitely out after dislocating a bone in his wrist. His place on the bench is likely to be taken by John Ryan.

Munster will delay naming their squad until the last possible moment.

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