Earls returns to Munster side for Champions Cup semi final

Munster Rugby
Keith Earls in action against Racing 92 at Thomond Park. He returns from injury on Sunday and faces the same opposition in the Champions Cup semi final Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Keith Earls has been named in the starting lineup as Munster face into their biggest game of the season against Racing 92 this Sunday.

Earls has been out injured since Ireland’s Grand Slam clincher against England in Twickenham last month but has been included in the team that plays the French side in the European Champions Cup semi final.

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He has returned well ahead of schedule and takes his place in the back three alongside quarter final hero Andrew Conway and Alex Wootton. It will be Earls’ 150th cap for Munster.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has opted to leave Simon Zebo on the bench against the team he will join at the end of the season.

In all, van Graan has made nine changes from the team that beat Toyota Cheetahs 19-17 in the Guinness Pro14 in South Africa last week.

The match winner in that game was Conor Murray and he returns to the starting XV for the game in place of James Hart, who is named among the replacements.

Ian Keatley is named alongside Murray at half back, while Rory Scannell and Sammy Arnold complete the backs in the centre positions.

Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer make up the front row, while Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland occupying the second row positions.

Munster will be captained as usual by Peter O’Mahony at blindside flanker and he is joined by Jack O’Donoghue and CJ Stander in the back row.

Racing 92 have named a strong team for the game in Bordeaux that includes former Munsterman Donnacha Ryan.

The teams have already met twice in this season’s competition in the group stage with each winning once.

The game kicks off at 3:15pm on Sunday Irish time and is live on BT Sport.

Munster: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, John Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler, Robin Copeland, James Hart, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo.

Racing 92: Loius Dupichotl Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy, Marc Andreu; Pat Lambie, Maxime Machenaud; Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat, Cedate Gomes Sa; Donnacha Ryan, Leone Nakarawa; Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Yannick Nyanga. Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vasil Kakovin, Viliamu Afatia, Antonie Claassen, Baptiste Chouzenoux, Teddy Iribaren, Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko.

Referee: JP Doyle (RFU)