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Munster Announce Squad For Gloucester Clash

Munster Announce Squad For Gloucester Clash

Munster coach Declan Kidney has named a 27-man squad for the province’s eagerly awaited Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm (kick-off 5.30pm) on Saturday.

Declan Kidney has some welcome selection decisions to mull over on the next few days, before he confirms his team and replacements for the Gloucester trip on Friday afternoon.

Rua Tipoki and Denis Leamy have shakened off injuries and each took a full part in Munster’s training session at the University of Limerick on Tuesday, while Marcus Horan is also on the mend after picking up an injury against Connacht.

Although the Munster management can bank on some tried and trusted combinations for their tenth Heineken Cup quarter-final, there is plenty of speculation about who will start at full-back, on one of the wings, in the front row and in the back row.

Should the 36-year-old team manager Shaun Payne, a safe pair of hands and a Heineken Cup veteran, don the number 15 jersey? Or they could plump for Cork Constitution clubman Denis Hurley, who, at 23, offers added pace and will keep Gloucester guessing as he is yet to feature in the tournament.

With All Black Doug Howlett tightening his grip on the right wing berth with two tries in his last two games, Ian Dowling and Brian Carney are going head-to-head for the other wing position.

Versatile prop Tony Buckley is putting his more experienced front row colleagues under increasing pressure and could well start, off the back of try-scoring run-outs against Cardiff Blues and Ulster recently.

That leaves the back row where Munster have plenty of candidates. Leamy will be hopeful of forcing his way back in after his recovery from a shoulder injury, while Niall Ronan and Donnacha Ryan have also done little wrong in recent weeks.

But will Kidney break up the grizzled trio of Alan Quinlan, David Wallace and Anthony Foley, who each impressed in last week’s 16-5 Magners League win at Connacht.

Commenting on the current strength in depth at his disposal, Kidney said: “We have been trying to build that over a while. You must have it and without it we wouldn’t be here now.

“They’ve all played their part in our season. It’s a case of coming up now with the best recipe for what we’re going into.”

Kidney readily accepts he has some tough calls to make, but it will not be any different for Gloucester boss Dean Ryan or any of the other quarter-final coaches, most of whom would be envious of the homegrown talent the Corkman can call on.

“The more choices you have, the more phone calls you have to make. Then again, the standard in the competition is getting like that,” he conceded.

“I’m sure Dean Ryan is wondering which of his hookers to select, and the same with his scrum halves.

“And if we didn’t have that strength, I have absolutely no doubt we wouldn’t be where we are now. And to do it with so many indigenous players makes us a little bit different from the other teams.”

Meanwhile, the venues for the Heineken Cup semi-finals on the weekend of April 26-27 have been selected by tournament organisers, ERC (European Rugby Cup Ltd.).

Following the draw for the semi-final pairings, ERC considered a range of venue options for the possible match-ups and four venues have now been selected.

The quarter-finals are due to be played this weekend and the winners of the games between London Irish and Perpignan and Saracens and Ospreys will have ‘home country’ advantage in the semi-finals.

The semi-final options are as follows:

London Irish v Toulouse or Cardiff Blues – Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham – capacity: 80,000
Perpignan v Toulouse or Cardiff Blues – Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier – capacity: 32,000
Saracens v Munster or Gloucester Rugby – Ricoh Arena, Coventry – capacity: 32,000
Ospreys v Munster or Gloucester Rugby – Millennium Stadium, Cardiff – capacity: 74,600

Jean-Pierre Lux, the ERC Chairman, said: “Heineken Cup rugby is set to re-emerge with four exciting quarter-finals this weekend when many of the stars of the recent RBS Six Nations will take centre stage once again.

“In order to showcase the best rugby playing talent in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as ensure a wonderful experience for the growing number of fans who follow this tournament, we have pre-selected the venues for the semi-finals.

“We are delighted to have four world-class stadia on stand-by in France, England and Wales to host the various semi-final options. This means fans will know exactly where they are going once their team has won through to the last-four,” he added.

“A quarter-final win for Perpignan will see the competition break new ground with a game at the impressive Stade de La Mosson in Montpellier, which hosted several World Cup games earlier in the year. ”

Tickets for the Heineken Cup semi-finals will go on sale this coming Sunday (April 6). Log onto http://www.ercrugby.com/ for further details.

MUNSTER Squad (v Gloucester): Forwards (15) – John Hayes, Marcus Horan, Tony Buckley, Federico Pucciariello, Jerry Flannery, Frank Sheahan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy, Anthony Foley, Niall Ronan.

Backs (12) – Shaun Payne, Denis Hurley, Doug Howlett, Kieran Lewis, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi, Brian Carney, Ian Dowling, Paul Warwick, Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary, Peter Stringer.

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