Sean McMahon reports from Coventry
Munster head coach Johann van Graan has said that he and his staff gave Keith Earls every opportunity this week to prove his fitness but ultimately, they had to decide to leave him out as he was not 100%.
Van Graan was speaking alongside Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander at a sun-kissed Ricoh Arena in Coventry today and the South African admitted that Earls’ absence is a “big loss”.
“We gave him every opportunity to get through the week but we pulled him out at yesterday’s training,” van Graan said at today’s captain’s run.
“He wasn’t 100% so we gave him up to yesterday.
“He’s a big loss. Obviously, it’s a game that he really wanted to play and he’s been in fantastic form. He played tremendous rugby with two big moments against Edinburgh.”
Such is the esteem in which Earls is held by his colleagues, the Limerick man has travelled to Coventry with the squad regardless and was helping out during their light session this afternoon.
“Keith travelled over with us. He’s one of our leadership group and is one of our most experienced players. He’s here to give every bit of assistance that he can and every per cent at this stage matters. It’s great to have him around and that’s why he travelled.”
For the man that is replacing Earls, Darren Sweetnam, it’s not his first time coming into the team at a late stage and the Dunmanway native has performed very well over the last few weeks while getting a run of matches under his belt.
“The next man in, Darren Sweetnam, he’s done it so many times this year. I believe it’s his ninth start in a row now. He’s played some excellent rugby throughout the year and this is a massive moment for him.
“In terms of the team, it’s not really a disruption, we’ve backed our squad the whole season and Sweets is in.”