BATTERED and bruised from their defeat last weekend to Leinster in the Magners League, Munster rugby face another away trip this weekend to kick start their Heineken Cup campaign. London Irish provide the opposition and in some weird twist of fate, Munster’s English opponents in a Heineken Cup game are the current leaders of the Aviva Premiership. Like Sale, Northampton and Leicester before them, Irish will provide a stern test for a pride damaged Munster set up.
Squad news ahead of the game sees Keith Earls return from injury. The flying centre has not played yet this season, but with Mafi suspended for seven weeks following a high tackle on Gordon D’Arcy, Munster may be forced to take the chance of rushing Keith back to play at 13.
Speaking about Keith’s return this week, Munster coach Tony Mc Gahan was excited at the prospect. “Earls has certainly shown in his short professional career that he has got that little X-factor about him. When he gets the ball you can hear it in the crowd, the anticipation, among our own players and certainly the opposition. With a player as exciting as Keith, who possesses power, great feet work, a great ability to pass at the same time, kick and regather, you have to be excited. He offers a lot of threats and you really need an X-factor and he certainly brings that to our midfield. We certainly need that this weekend”.
In other news, Tomas O Leary is a real doubt ahead of the game as the scrum half suffered a hand injury in the Leinster game. Peter Stringer is expected to deputise at nine.
With Paul O Connell still out, Munster’s pack is the same as the one which broke even against Leinster. Captained by Denis Leamy, Munster will look to kick start their campaign with an away win. “Away wins are never easy in the Heineken Cup. In a group like this, (London Irish, Ospreys and Toulon) we can take nothing for granted. We need to front up next week. We are hurting from last week so we know we need to improve again this week”, added the Tipperary native.