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Celtic League: Internationals Return for Munster and Leinster

Celtic League: Internationals Return for Munster and Leinster

Fit-again Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara will make his return in Munster red today, four weeks after injurying a finger bone in his right hand against Leinster.

Fit-again Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara will make his return in Munster red today, four weeks after injurying a finger bone in his right hand against Leinster.

The 27-year-old will be back in action against the Llanelli Scarlets at Stradey Park – eight days before Ireland’s opening 2005 RBS 6 Nations trip to face Italy. The Cork man, along with eleven Munster-based internationals, trained with Eddie O’Sullivan’s squad this week in Terenure.

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Munster boss Alan Gaffney has made three changes from the side which came away from Twickenham two weeks ago, with an 18-10 Heineken Cup win over Harlequins.

Former Widnes league player Paul Devlin comes in for his fourth start, with Jason Holland also getting a run at inside centre.

That midfield switch sees Shaun Payne moved to outside centre, with Rob Henderson likely to be excluded from the 22-man squad. The forward unit – for a tie which could see Munster equal Leinster’s league record of eleven straight wins – is unchanged.

Gareth Jenkins’ Scarlets have not lost at home since October’s 29-21 loss to Connacht, and were also on the wrong end of the score line – losing 19-13 – when visiting Thomond Park six days previous to that.

O’Gara converted Denis Leamy and Christian Cullen tries, with Ireland flanker Alan Quinlan also on target for Munster.

Declan Kidney has the luxury of adding eleven Ireland squad members to his 22-man Leinster squad for Sunday’s Lansdowne Road clash with the Newport-Gwent Dragons.

Young flanker Shane Jennings is a notable absentee however.

Shane Byrne, Reggie Corrigan, Leo Cullen, Gordon D’Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Guy Easterby, Shane Horgan, Denis Hickie, Eric Miller, Brian O’Driscoll and Malcolm O’Kelly will all feature against the Welsh – who Kidney joined in May for little over three weeks.

Although Ireland skipper Brian O’Driscoll will undergo a late fitness test, and could be replaced by Argentine Felipe Contepomi in the province’s midfield. Victor Costello is benched, having captained the side against Borders last week, with youngster Niall Ronan retaining his place in the back row, alongside Ciaran Potts and Miller, at number eight.

Leinster’s grander Dublin 4 venue has not seen them lose since January 2004 but the fourth-ranked Dragons – just two points behind Kidney’s men in the table – were 34-13 victors at Rodney Parade in October.

Right winger Gareth Wyatt was their two-try hero as Leinster lost, despite the inclusion of a number of Ireland stars – including try scorer Horgan – making only their second starts of the 2004/05 season.

Celtic League: Week 15 Fixtures
Saturday, January 29:
Llanelli Scarlets v Munster, Stradey Park, 5.30pm (live Setanta)


(15) Christian Cullen
(14) Paul Devlin
(13) Shaun Payne
(12) Jason Holland
(11) Anthony Horgan
(10) Ronan O’Gara
(9) Peter Stringer
(1) Marcus Horan
(2) Frankie Sheahan
(3) John Hayes
(4) Donncha O’Callaghan
(5) Paul O’Connell
(6) Alan Quinlan
(7) Denis Leamy
(8) Anthony Foley (Capt)

Replacements (from): Gordon McIlwham, Frankie Roche, Jerry Flannery, Trevor Hogan, David Wallace, Eoin Reddan, AN Other

Referee: Andy Ireland (Scotland)

Sunday, January 30:
Leinster v Newport-Gwent Dragons, Lansdowne Road, 4.45pm (live Setanta)


(15) Girvan Dempsey
(14) Shane Horgan
(13) Brian O’Driscoll/Felipe Contepomi
(12) Gordon D’Arcy
(11) Denis Hickie
(10) David Holwell
(9) Guy Easterby
(1) Reggie Corrigan (Capt)
(2) Shane Byrne
(3) Emmett Byrne
(4) Leo Cullen
(5) Malcolm O’Kelly
(6) Ciaran Potts
(7) Niall Ronan
(8) Eric Miller

Replacements (from): Ricky Nebbett, David Blaney, Ben Gissing, Aidan McCullen, Victor Costello, Brian O’Riordan, David Quinlan, Kieran Lewis, Gary Brown

Referee: David Changleng (Scotland)