Click here for photos of Munster’s training session in Limerick today ahead of their crunch Heineken Cup quarter-final against Perpignan.
Pictured above: Jerry Flannery, who nailed down the hooker berth for Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations campaign, and Ian Dowling, who scored a try on his Ireland “A’ debut against England recently, go through their paces at Thomond Park.
Denis Leamy and Munster coach Declan Kidney look on at training. Back row Leamy, who injured his ankle in Ireland’s Triple Crown win over England, had a scan on it last week and trained today with the rest of the squad. Kidney said after the postponement of the province’s Celtic League clash in Llanelli: “Denis (Leamy) wasn’t available for us at Llanelli, but we hope he’ll be fit for selection this weekend.”
David Wallace skips past the challenge of Donncha O’Callaghan at Thomond Park. Since coming on as a substitute against Sale last October, Wallace has been ever present in the number 7 shirt for the remainder of the Heineken Cup pool stages. He scored the crucial late try in January’s 31-9 defeat of the Sharks that secured Munster top spot in Pool 1.
Lock O’Callaghan, who turned 27 last week, started all six of Munster’s pool games, scoring a try in the 42-16 home win over Castres in October.
Ronan O’Gara, the Heineken Cup all-time leading points scorer (717 points), has scored 68 points in this season’s competition to date – kicking 16 conversions, a drop goal and 11 penalties.
Paul O’Connell tracks back to tackle South African centre Trevor Halstead in Limerick. Halstead’s debut season in the Heineken Cup has gone well so far – having missed the Pool 1 opener against Sale, the 29-year-old took over the number 12 shirt, with Gary Connolly shifting to 13, for the home tie with Castres in October. He scored a try against the Frenchs side and the former Springbok has been first choice ever since.
Prop Marcus Horan washes his gumshield before training. Horan, 28, will return to Munster colours this weekend after a morale-boosting couple of months with Ireland. The Shannon clubman has started nine of Ireland’s last ten Test matches, missing out on the Paris clash with France last month due to the winter vomiting bug.
Horan comes into the Perpignan game having scored two tries in his last four Heineken Cup outings (against the Dragons and Castres). However, he also earned a brace of yellow cards in the clashes with the Dragons and Sale in December and January.
A sight for sore eyes – legendary All Black Christian Cullen in training with the Munster squad. The Paraparaumu-born Cullen, still New Zealand’s record try scorer with 46 tries in 58 Test matches, made his comeback from a long term shoulder injury recently in a Munster “A” game, having also put in a 20-minute cameo for Midleton in a friendly against Cork Constitution.
The 30-year-old full-back missed the cut for the province’s original Heineken Cup panel owing to injury, but he has been added for the knock-out stages and could feature at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Whether involved on the pitch or not, Cullen is hoping Munster’s supporters can create a magical atmosphere against Perpignan, akin to the one against Wasps for the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2004. He said in a recent interview: “Supporters have a huge role to play, and I remember many great days with the All Blacks when the crowd made the day. The atmosphere at Thomond Park is second to none, but the hair at the back of my neck stands up when I think of Lansdowne Road, and that match against Wasps.
“The atmosphere, from morning was electric – the atmosphere in the ground was something else. I don’t think I have ever experienced anything quite like it.”
Cullen has scored two tries in his eight Heineken Cup appearances to date – against Castres and the Ospreys last season.
Christian Cullen – whose last Heineken Cup appearance for Munster came at Twickenham in the 18-10 pool win over NEC Harlequins in January of last year. His last game for Munster was against Cardiff in the Celtic League on March 5 of last year – he tore his shoulder ligaements in the game at the Arms Park.
John Hayes gets set for some tackle bag practice. The 6ft 4in Bruff clubman, who emerged with much credit from the RBS 6 Nations run, is set for his 60th start in a Heineken Cup match this Saturday. His one and only appearance as a replacement came against Castres in January 2002.
**All photos by Lorraine O’Sullivan of Inpho Photography**