Earls return lifts Munster for European double date
MUNSTER have received a big boost ahead of their Heineken Cup double date with Perpignan, with Keith Earls expected to play against Dragons on Friday.
Meanwhile, flanker Peter O'Mahony, who suffered a dead leg in the loss to the All Blacks, is likely to be fit for the visit of Perpignan on Sunday week, although he has been ruled out of the match in Newport.
Paul O'Connell and Conor Murray may also be available for the trip to Wales, with Munster coach Rob Penney waiting to see if they have been cleared to play.
Earls suffered a knee injury in Irish training camp prior to the start of the autumn internationals and Penney is hopeful that he will get a run against Dragons before they resume their Heineken Cup campaign.
"He hasn't had anything for the last three or four weeks now so he's a likely guy to be involved this week. I'm very confident Earlsy will be available.
"James Downey is another one that hasn't been available to us for three or four weeks, so he comes into the selection framework, as well as Ian Keatley.
"The guys that have been in national camp, I haven't had too many meetings with them as yet, but they're not totally ruled out. That's my understanding, so we'll just see what happens," said Penney.
New signing Gerhard van den Heever, who is not yet Heineken Cup registered, could be poised to make his debut in Newport as Munster bid to hold on to top spot after their impressive 31-10 win in Cardiff last weekend.
"He is fully training now with no problems, so he's available and Ian Nagle got through some rugby last weekend so he's also available," added Penney.
Munster defeated the Dragons 23-9 in Musgrave Park in September, but the Gwent side have been in good form lately and will go into Friday night's match buoyed by an impressive 23-8 win in Glasgow last weekend.