Jerry Flannery, Felix Jones and George Murray to take charge of Zebre tie

Colm Kinsella

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Colm Kinsella

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ckinsella@limerickleader.ie

Munster's Keith Earls and James Cronin set to miss crucial Euro ties with Tigers

Keith Earls who will miss the upcoming Leicester Tigers back to back games in December

Munster’s new head coach Johann van Graan has joined up with the squad this week. However, as the former South African assistant coach gets used to his new surrounds, scrum coach Flannery, technical coach Felix Jones and performance analyst George Murray will oversee the province’s game with Michael Bradley’s Zebre this weekend.

Munster, who have won all 10 of their previous meetings with Zebre, sit second in Conference A of the Pro14 with five wins from their opening eight fixtures. Zebre have already claimed the scalps of Ulster and the Southern Kings at home this term in the Pro14.

Munster, busily preparing for Sunday’s resumption of the Guinness Pro14 next weekend when the side faces Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, at 1.30pm (Irish time), are due to meet Leicester Tigers in the first of two mammoth back-to-back pool fixtures in the Champions Cup at Thomond Park on Saturday, December 9, 7.45pm.

The province are facing a double injury blow ahead of the crucial back-to-back Champions Cup fixtures with Leicester Tigers, as winger Keith Earls and prop James Cronin look set to miss next month’s clashes due to injury.

In-form Earls is sidelined with a hamstring injury he sustained while training with Ireland ahead of their opening Guinness Series fixture with South Africa.

Prop James Cronin is ruled out at present with a calf injury he picked up while playing with the Barbarians against Samoa at Thomond Park earlier this month.

Speaking at a Munster press briefing in UL on Tuesday, Munster scrum coach, Jerry Flannery said: “Earlsey (Keith Earls) is not going to be available for the foreseeable future. It’ll be another seven or eight weeks anyway with his hamstring. Whether it progresses better as it gets closer I don’t know.

“James Cronin is still out, he is probably another six to seven weeks with his calf.”

Scrum-half Duncan Williams is reported to have ‘a shoulder niggle’ and while out-half Tyler Bleyendaal’s neck injury is said to be progressing well, the half-backs will both miss the weekend’s game in Parma.

Another key player missing for the trip to Italy is back-rower Tommy O’Donnell who has been troubled with an AC joint injury in his shoulder. O’Donnell is expected to return in the Pro14 fixture at home to Ospreys on December 2 or the Champions Cup fixture with the Tigers in Limerick a week later.

On a more positive note in relation to Munster’s back-row options, Jack O’Donoghue returns to training this week following a minor ankle injury sustained against Dragons earlier this month.