Per Munster Rugby, winger and centre Keith Earls,underwent surgery on his right knee on Tuesday afternoon, writes Garbh Madigan.
Originally the prognosis was that Earls would be back training with the side within days but having consulted with experts in London,the decision was made to operate on his patellar tendon. The Moyross flier is not expected to be back for a minimum of four months after the injury.
This leaves Munster with serious problems in their back division. The mystique of Thomond Park seems to be wavering as the side has lost twice at home over their opening three Guinness Pro 12 games in Limerick, only beating minnows Zebre. Some will argue that the current crop of players are not up to the usual standard that Munster has set over the years.
While the fancy side of rugby was never going to be a forte of coach Anthony Foley’s, his back division is just lacking that killer bite outside the mercurial Simon Zebo. Andrew Smith is yet to make an impact following his arrival from the ACT Brumbies this year and Gerhard Van Den Heever has struggled to make it off the injury table for the past twelve months.
Following the loss of solid mentors like All Blacks Casey Laulala and Doug Howlett as well as the dependable James Downey, Munster have an inexperienced set of backs, none of an International standard outside of Zebo and Earls, who are far from guaranteed international starters under Joe Schmidt either.
In fact, this is the year that the squad really could have used a foreign import to steady the ship as many top team players and leaders like O’Connell come towards their final days in the famous blood red. Even before the arrival of the great Howlett, players like Lifeimi Mafi, Rua Tipoki and Paul Warwick were superb Heineken Cup performers, following on from the likes of Trevor Halstead and Shaun Payne.
Those imports always brought Munster through periods of transition and strengthened the squad, but players of that character and quality appear to be missing at present. While Tyler Bleyendaal is due to arrive in the province on November 1st, his impact at (his secondary position) inside centre is not expected to be what is needed, despite his fantastic pedigree as captain of the New Zealand under-20’s (2010).
If criticism is ever going to come to the south east, it will be next week when Munster face the always formidable “Culchie verses City” derby in the Aviva. While Leinster are also struggling as of late (winning just two of their opening four Guinness Pro12 games), they still seem to be in much better shape than Munster and boast a much more settled team filled with Internationals who are always gunning for the local derby.
While he has coached an experienced group of forwards well, Foley’s challenge will lie with what he does with limited resources behind the pivot. For all of us diehards, we hope they buy him some help soon.
Garbh Madigan, Pundit Arena.
Read More About: Andrew Smith, Anthony Foley, Aviva Stadium, brumbies, Casey Laulala, doug howlett, James Downey, Joe Schmidt, Keith Earls, Leinster, Mafi, Munster, munster rugby, paul o'connell, shaun payne, Simon Zebo, Thomond Park, Tipoki, Top Story, Trevor Halstead, tyler bleyendaal