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O’Connell Misses Out For Munster

O’Connell Misses Out For Munster

Munster have named a 26-man squad for their Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with Biarritz Olympique in San Sebastian on Sunday (kick-off 4.15pm local time/3.15pm Irish time).

In a significant pre-match setback, Munster’s inspirational captain Paul O’Connell has failed to recover in time from a groin injury and will be sidelined for a second successive Heineken Cup knockout game.

The injury, who has dogged him since the end of the RBS 6 Nations, kept him out of Munster’s quarter-final victory over Northampton Saints, and out-half Ronan O’Gara is set to captain the province once again this weekend.

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But, encouragingly, Keith Earls has been included in Munster’s extended panel for the semi-final. He has been nursing a groin injury of late, and worked well with physio Neil Tucker during Wednesday’s training run-out at Musgrave Park.

Three other players who have been receiving treatment – Ian Dowling (knee), Doug Howlett (hamstring) and Nick Williams (groin) – have also made the cut and are in contention to feature against the French side.

Both Munster and Biarritz Olympique suffered home defeats last weekend. Going down to Magners League play-off rivals, the Ospreys, will have dented confidence, but Munster coach Tony McGahan is confident that his side can bounce back with a big European performance.

“At this stage (of the competition), I don’t really know if current form holds any water. It’s a one-off game, it’s a semi-final,” he said. 

“You saw that when we played Leinster here, close but a little off the mark. But we came out and played well the following week (against Northampton Saints). All teams have the capability of doing that.

“We have shown that this season where we have had a disappointing result – whether it has been the week before rounds one and two in the Heineken Cup or before the back-to-back fixtures in round three and four in the competition – that we have certainly come back.

“We have some guys to come back into the squad we will certainly regroup.

“We know that Sunday is what it is all about for us this year. We are really targetting the Heineken Cup.

“We want to get a result in the semi-final to go one step further than we did last year. We want to put ourselves in with the chance of collecting some silverware.”

The Munster management will confirm their team and replacements on Friday afternoon, with the travelling party departing from Shannon Airport on Saturday morning.

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

Forwards (14): Marcus Horan, Tony Buckley, Julien Brugnaut, John Hayes, Damien Varley, Jerry Flannery, Mick O’Driscoll, Billy Holland, Donncha O’Callaghan, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Nick Williams, James Coughlan, Niall Ronan.