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Munster wary of risking further setbacks for '95% fit' Carbery and Earls

Johann van Graan is hopeful of having the pair back for the Pro14 semi-final against Leinster.

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park

JOHANN VAN GRAAN remains cautious over using either Joey Carbery or Keith Earls ahead of schedule, as the Munster head coach yesterday admitted both are ‘very important players for Ireland’.

Munster were not prepared to risk the fitness of the pair for the Guinness Pro14 quarter-final against Benetton, despite Earls being named in the starting XV, while Carbery was also ‘pulled’ from the matchday squad.

Joey Carbery Carbery carrying the water during yesterday's game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Earls had been due to make his comeback from a thigh injury in the narrow 15-13 win over the Italians but was withdrawn from the team on Friday evening and Carbery was again reduced to a role on the sidelines as he carried the water for Munster.

The 23-year-old has played half an hour of rugby since injuring his hamstring during the Six Nations back in February, and although Carbery is, according to van Graan, 95% fit, he continues to be held back.

“Look, Keith and Joey, I’ll just answer the question I think is coming my way,” the Munster head coach said during the post-match press conference.

“Keith and Joey are very close to full fitness. Both of them trained in the week, we decided yesterday to pull both of them because they’re, one, very important players for Ireland, two very important players for Munster.

It’s a knockout game and because it’s reoccurring injuries, we didn’t want to take a chance. Joey and Earlsy were both 95% and we decided not to take a chance. The positive news is that we have two more weeks now, so, hopefully, they’ll be 100% once we get to the semi-final.

With a two-week lead-in to the last four showdown against Leinster at the RDS on 18 May, Munster will rest and recover in the coming days before nailing down a gameplan they feel can topple the defending champions in Dublin.

Key to that will be the fitness of Earls and Carbery, with the out-half facing into a potential return to the RDS, but Jeremy Loughman is unlikely to feature against his native province after suffering a leg injury during Friday’s captain’s run. He arrived at Thomond Park on crutches yesterday. 

Van Graan confirmed the withdrawal of Tadhg Beirne early in the second half against Benetton was a tactical substitution and the Ireland second row had not sustained a knock. 

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Ryan Bailey

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