Thursday 17 October 2019

Earls has got to feel 100pc right to get on field - Van Graan

Johann van Graan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Johann van Graan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Johann van Graan says he will not take a chance with the fitness of Joey Carbery or Keith Earls as Munster bid for a home semi-final in the PRO14.

Dave Kilcoyne is the latest of Munster's Irish internationals to pick up an injury, and he is a doubt for Saturday's inter-provincial derby with Connacht due to an ankle knock sustained in the province's Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Saracens at the weekend.

To have any chance of topping Conference A and securing a last-four tie at Thomond Park, Munster must beat Connacht and hope Edinburgh can deny current leaders Glasgow Warriors in their last game.

Failure to top the group will see Munster host a quarter-final against either Benetton Rugby, Edinburgh or Scarlets and become the only side in the competition to play seven weeks running since the PRO14 and European action resumed after the Six Nations.

The heavy demand remains a concern for Van Graan and he admitted Munster missed the creativity of Carbery and Earls against a dominant Saracens side.

"In big games you need your quality players fit," he said. "I've got 100 per cent confidence in the guys that we put on the field and Tyler Bleyendaal and JJ Hanrahan gave it all they've got, as did Darren Sweetnam, who scored that try.

"Did we miss Joey and Earlsy? We most definitely did. They are some of our best players and you need your best players fit in a game like this."

Earles was initially diagnosed with tightness, but his thigh muscle injury has Van Graan concerned.

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"We'll re-assess him this week and as soon as he becomes available I'll pick him. He's got to feel 100 per cent right to get on the field. The information from our medical side is once he's 100 per cent ready we'll put him back on the field.

"Joey ran last week. He hasn't trained with the team as of yet. We're not going to rush him back, we've already qualified for at least a home quarter-final so there's still a lot of rugby to be played. He's been injured twice now with hamstring injuries so we'd like to give him some sort of training time and then we'll put him back in."

Meanwhile, Duncan Casey as announced he will retire at the end of the season, bringing the curtain down on his career at the age of 28.

The former Munster hooker, who helped Grenoble to Top 14 promotion since joining the French side in January last year, made the announcement on Twitter yesterday.

"I'll be retiring at the end of the season after six brilliant years of pro rugby. Thanks Munster and Grenoble for allowing me to have the job every boy dreams of having," said the Cork law graduate and politics student.

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