MUNSTER DIRECTOR OF rugby Rassie Erasmus says the province might have to take another plunge into the transfer market after the loss of Francis Saili for up to four months.
Saili was forced to undergo surgery for a second time on his shoulder injury on Monday and faces a race to be fit to return before Christmas.
All Black-capped centre Saili has been ruled out. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Erasmus said switching Keith Ealrs back into the centre is an option, but he will take a good look at the depth of his squad in Friday’s pre-season warm-up against Zebre, and again the following weekend against Worcester in Cork. However, if he cannot identify a suitable replacement for Saili in-house, he may be forced to look elsewhere.
“I think the next two warm-up games will definitely be a gauge for us to see will we be okay in that area into the season. If we’re not we’ll obviously have to make a plan,” said Erasmus.
“I don’t like just bringing in guys for the sake of it, they must really be better. I think the boys we have here have two weeks to prove themselves in that position. They’re certainly going to have time and they all can see there’s an opportunity now, so they know there’s no reason why they should not take that opportunity.
“If in these two weeks nobody puts up their hands and really grabs that opportunity then for sure we’ll have to.”
Johnny Holland is one player that stepped forward last season and proved his class, eventually forcing his way into the starting number 10 shirt for the run-in. He is still suffering from a hamstring issue and misses this game, but Tyler Bleyendaal could be fit to return next weekend against Worcester.
And Erasmus could hand a debut to former Limerick minor hurler Conor Fitzgerald – currently one of two fit out-halves in the squad along with Ian Keatley – who could follow his brother Stephen and make his bow with the Munster senior team.
“Young fly-half Conor Fitzgerald is going to do well,” said Erasmus. “He’s been training from the beginning with us but he’s a young guy. He’s going to get an opportunity this weekend and sometimes guys like that get an opportunity and they just take it.