Munster giving Keith Earls as much time as possible to recover for Champions Cup semi-final

By Michael Moynihan

Munster coach Johann van Graan is not ruling Keith Earls out of this weekend’s Champions Cup semi-final against Racing 92.

“Earlsie will be back on the field tomorrow and we want to see how he’s recovered,” said Van Graan today.

“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 said the two-week trip to South Africa for their Pro 14 campaign proved beneficial for Munster.

He said: “When the fixtures came out it wasn’t ideal to travel between the quarter and semi-final, but we couldn’t control that and we had to win the quarter-final to be in that position.

“We treated it as a massive positive, we said we needed balance on the tour - you don’t go on tours as much so we got to sit around the dinner table and get to know each other a lot better. We also trained hard, we trained smart, and tried to rectify what we weren’t happy with against Toulon.

“We gave the Cheetahs and the Kings the respect they deserved and also did some small things to prepare for Racing.

“The Cheetahs game was massively important, we respect what they can bring, they can punish you if you’re not up for it. It was important to us and all credit to the players and coaching staff who dug in and stuck it out for a tough last 10 minutes and we were lucky enough to win.”

Van Graan said he was treating the trip to South Africa as a positive.

He said: “We were the only team which had this fixture list, we embrace it. The mind’s a powerful thing so we use it as a positive, to build relationships, talk about rugby, we got back on Sunday afternoon and guys went back to their families for two nights.

“Then we came back today and start again from zero, it’s a Champions Cup semi-final week but we treat every week the same. It’s important not to play the game before it’s played Sunday afternoon, to make sure we’re ready to go.”

Racing will be no strangers to Munster, of course.

Van Graan said: “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.

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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