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Munster Include Mafi And O’Leary

Munster Include Mafi And O’Leary

Lifeimi Mafi and Tomas O’Leary have been slotted into the Munster squad for their Magners League trip to Newport and the clash with the Dragons on Friday night (kick-off 7.05pm).

Lifeimi Mafi features in the squad for the first time since being suspended for an incident during Munster’s Magners League loss to Leinster last month.

That Aviva Stadium encounter also marked Tomas O’Leary’s last outing for Munster. The scrum half broke his thumb during the interprovincial derby and returns at an opportune time, given Peter Stringer’s involvement with Ireland and Duncan Williams’ ankle injury.

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Johne Murphy and John Hayes have been released from the Ireland squad for Munster’s league encounter with the Dragons, who lost to Leinster at the RDS last weekend.

Munster are on a roll after last week’s wins over Australia and the Scarlets and there is further good news as their talismanic captain Paul O’Connell is set to make his return to rugby this weekend, featuring for Young Munster in a floodlit All-Ireland League clash with Shannon.

O’Connell, who has not played since the end of this year’s Six Nations in March, has been progressing well in his recovery from a groin infection and subsequent complications.

Munster team manager Shaun Payne said: “Paulie’s doing really well. We’re delighted with the progress he’s making. He’s been training symptom-free for a couple of weeks.

“It’s a long time since he last played. We need him to get some limited game-time just to bring him up one more step, and if he gets through that game on Friday, he’ll come back into contention for us for the following weekend against Cardiff.

“He’s been in full contact training for the last two or three weeks. He’s delighted, you know what Paulie is like – there is nothing worse for him than having to sit on the sidelines and watch.

“It’s been a very frustrating time for him since last season’s Six Nations. He’s busting to get back into it. He’s had no setbacks over the past couple of months.

“We initially thought he’d be back around Christmas time, so this is a good four weeks ahead of schedule.”

Williams’ ankle injury rules him out of two to three weeks and sees him join a Munster injury list that includes Alan Quinlan (hamstring), Jerry Flannery (calf), Ian Dowling (hip), Felix Jones (knee) and Denis Fogarty (shoulder).

MUNSTER Squad (v Newport Gwent Dragons) – Backs (12): Tomas O’Leary, Conor Murray, Paul Warwick, Scott Deasy, Sam Tuitupou, Barry Murphy, Lifeimi Mafi, Ivan Dineen, Tom Gleeson, Doug Howlett, Johne Murphy, Denis Hurley.

Forwards (14): Wian du Preez, Dave Ryan, John Hayes, Stephen Archer, Peter Borlase, Sean Henry, Mike Sherry, Brian Hayes, Ian Nagle, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.