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Murray and Earls set to return for Munster's visit to Castres

The Ireland international pair are available again with the Six Nations around the corner.

Murray and Earls are set to return.
Murray and Earls are set to return.

IRELAND INTERNATIONALS CONOR Murray and Keith Earls are set to return for Munster’s Champions Cup clash with Castres in France on Friday night.

The experienced pair were absent from last weekend’s comeback victory against Ulster in Limerick in the United Rugby Championship due to what head coach Johann van Graan said were personal reasons.

However, Munster will have Murray and Earls available again for their trip to Castres, a timely boost with uncertainty remaining over inside centre Damian de Allende, who has been dealing with an abdominal injury.

Murray and Earls getting back into action would also be a welcome sight for Ireland head coach Andy Farrell with the Six Nations now just four weekends away.

“They weren’t available last week due to personal reasons,” said Munster boss van Graan of Murray and Earls.

“They are available this week. We have still got one training session to go this afternoon and some decisions that we need to make after that, but both are available for selection this weekend.”

The southern province are also set to welcome back captain Peter O’Mahony after he was forced out of the Ulster clash due to a leg strain suffered in the warm-up, while second row Jean Kleyn could return from a knee injury.

Munster travel to Castres having won both of their Champions Cup Pool B games so far, including a 19-13 victory over the French club in Limerick last month.

Van Graan’s side are second in Pool B as things stand. The two pools have a different look this morning following EPCR’s decision to record the five games that were postponed last month as 0-0 draws.

The competition has already seen lots of upheaval and EPCR has been forced into tough decisions due to Covid-19, with van Graan sharing his sympathy for the organisers.

“It’s important to note that nobody asked for this virus that came along a few years ago,” said the Munster boss yesterday before confirmation of the 0-0 draws decision.

“I think people are doing their best to adapt. In terms of communication, that has been excellent towards our side, from Niall O’Donovan, our manager, and Ian Flanagan, our CEO.

“We try and control what we can, which is what we are doing inside. To give EPCR and the URC a bit of credit, it’s so difficult to manage because things change so quickly.”

Van Graan is only thinking about what’s to come on Friday as Munster look to build on last weekend’s victory over Ulster, which came after a 15th-minute red card for Simon Zebo.

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Munster’s winning score finished by replacement back row Alex Kendellan was an impressive one, featuring some slick passing and offloading. 

“Very happy with that try, actually very happy with both tries,” said van Graan. “The one from Mikey [Haley] started from a lineout, which I felt we handled pretty well.

“Alex Kendellen’s try actually started with Ulster pinning us back in our half. It became a broken-field battle.

“Look at someone like Jack O’Donoghue’s off-the-ball work for that try, he carried on the left, there was one more phase and he made that linebreak. To finish it off was very pleasing.

“We need more of that. Friday night again is a very different battle to what the opposition is going to give you.

“They have got a very big pack of forwards. They will challenge us at scrum and maul time. They will kick long back into our own 22 and invite us to play out of there.

“Yes, we have got some phenomenal counter-attackers and we will use them at the right time. Hopefully we can deliver a performance that makes sure we get a good result on Friday evening.”

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Murray Kinsella

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