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Munster Welcome Back Frontline Players

Munster Welcome Back Frontline Players

Other than those ruled out through injury, the Munster squad named today for the Scarlets clash on Sunday at Musgrave Park (kick-off 5pm) includes most of the players who featured in the Heineken Cup win away in Perpignan before Christmas.

While most of Munster’s frontliners return, John Hayes will sit out Sunday’s game and injured hooker Jerry Flannery is also omitted with a return likely sometime over the next two Heineken Cup games.

Munster trained this morning at the gym in the University of Limerick, with the afternoon session taking place on the not quite all-weather soccer pitch beside the Bowl, half of which was frozen under a light covering of snow.

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However, the players managed to get through their drills with captain Paul O’Connell afterwards expressing his satisfaction with their outing.

“It wasn’t ideal really but then you can’t do much about it (the weather),” said the big lock.

“We got through our session well enough, although had the weather allowed this was a day we had planned on doing an amount of scrum and lineout work.”

Commenting on the squad selection on Marcus Horan’s fitness, Munster team manager Shaun Payne said: “We have decided to give John Hayes an extra week of rest but most of the others are back. We’re trying to do what we consider is best for the player.

“With Marcus, we had hoped he would have had a bit of game-time last week but that did not materialise. He needs a full game this weekend.

“He has done remarkably well and is back in full training. We hope he will get a game this weekend but he is fully fit.”

Payne said that the weather is playing havoc with games around the country but he was confident that Musgrave Park will be playable.

“All sorts of precautions are being taken and I am very positive that the game will go ahead as planned,” he admitted. 

“There is always the risk of a back-up of fixtures which nobody wants. There is a contingency plan to move the game to Thomond Park if necessary but I am very confident that it will go ahead in Cork.

“We will be using this game as a dress rehearsal for the Heineken Cup a week later against Treviso.”

On the subject of the province’s injury list, Payne said that Jerry Flannery is recovering well from his Achilles problem but that Felix Jones will unfortunately be out of action for the rest of the season because of the neck injury he suffered early in the first half against Connacht.

“Felix is very happy about the treatment he received for the injury and we are looking forward to having him back for the start of next season.

“Of course, we are very disappointed to lose him and all the more so that his injury came at a time when he was playing very well. We are very disappointed for him.

“With Jerry out, we are fortunate that both Denis Fogarty and Damien Varley are is such great form. All three hookers are getting closer and closer to one another in terms of performance.

“We have been unlucky to lose Denis Leamy and Nick Williams through injury also.”

Munster plan to have another training session in Cork on Friday. Indications from ground staff at Musgrave Park are that the game will go ahead as planned on Sunday, although there will be further pitch inspections on Friday and again on Saturday.

The pitch there is covered and a further ‘warm blanket’ covering was added this afternoon.

MUNSTER Squad (v Scarlets) – Backs (12): Denis Hurley, Ian Dowling, Doug Howlett, Tom Gleeson, Jean de Villiers, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Paul Warwick, Ronan O’Gara, Duncan Williams, Tomas O’Leary, Peter Stringer.

Forwards (14): Wian du Preez, Stephen Archer, Tony Buckley, Denis Fogarty, Damien Varley, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, Billy Holland, David Wallace, James Coughlan.