Tuesday 14 August 2018

Johann van Graan: Earls return would be a 'massive boost' to Munster's hopes

14 January 2018; Keith Earls of Munster during the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 5 match between Racing 92 and Munster at the U Arena in Paris, France. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
14 January 2018; Keith Earls of Munster during the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 5 match between Racing 92 and Munster at the U Arena in Paris, France. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Johann van Graan has hailed Keith Earls' return to fitness as a 'massive boost' ahead of Sunday's Champions Cup semi-final meeting with Racing 92 in Bordeaux.

The Moyross man damaged his knee in the Six Nations finale against England but, just over a month after that game, he will return to full training with the team tomorrow.

And if he comes through that session he will be available for selection.

Munster coach van Graan also hopes to have Jack O'Donoghue available for selection after he hurt his ankle in the win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday night, while James Hart is following the return to play protocols after suffering a head injury in the same game. James Cronin is also in a race to be fit after injuring his shoulder in the win over the Southern Kings.

"Earlsy will be back on the field tomorrow and we want to see how he’s recovered," the coach said.

"Jack O’Donoghue will also be on the field later in the week, so we’ll take it day by day and give guys as much time as we can to make the right decisions and to pick the best team we can for Sunday.

"A massive boost (if fit), he brings such experience and he’s been on fire any time he’s been on the field. He’s looking forward to the week and hopefully he can get through training. It would give guys around him confidence and obviously it would be great to have him if he’s ready to go."

Van Graan is fully aware of the challenge ahead against the big-spending Parisians.

"It’s a semi-final, I don’t think anything that happened before has any bearing on this game. You need to be at your best to win a semi-final, to absorb pressure and take your opportunities," he said.

"A semi-final is a cruel game, you’re so close to the final, so our focus is all on ourselves. Racing are a world-class team, just look at their results, so it’s a massive assignment for us to go France and to try to beat Racing. We’re looking forward to it."

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