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Earls return in doubt as Ireland begin Round 3 preparations

Earls return in doubt as Ireland begin Round 3 preparations

Ireland could be without Keith Earls for the remainder of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations because of a thigh injury.

Earls, who had hoped to win the four required caps to reach 100 in the famous green jersey, sustained the injury during the pre-Championship training camp and did not feature in the first two rounds.

Munster senior coach Stephen Larkham admitted that a return during the campaign is unlikely.

Larkham said: “He’s in a longer-term rehab programme at the moment, so when are we expecting him back? Not for the short-term.

“Once he gets out, we’re looking at four or five weeks but the timeline can be very variable based on how they respond in the first couple of weeks.

“It’s early days with the injury so we’ve got to see how he progresses over these first couple of weeks and then make a decision after that.”

Larkham stopped short of ruling Earls out of the Championship but stated that he was currently limited to a role in the leadership group.

The 34-year-old initially returned to Munster after Ireland’s Round 1 with over Wales with a hamstring issue. However, in their latest injury update, the province described it as a thigh problem.

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Ireland began the Guinness Six Nations with few injury concerns but are beginning to see their squad depth tested.

Captain and veteran fly-half Johnny Sexton missed the 30-24 defeat to France in Round 2 with a hamstring strain, though is expected to return for the Round 3 contest against Italy.

Hooker Rob Herring (calf) returned to his club Ulster after Round 1, while forward Iain Henderson (ankle) and centre Robbie Henshaw (adductor) returned to the bench for the Round 2 trip to Paris.

Andy Farrell’s side are third in the Guinness Six Nations table and welcome Italy to the Aviva Stadium after the first rest week.