Flutey high on Munster's list of targets as replacement for De Villiers
Published 03/03/2010 | 05:00
Munster have refused to deny speculation that Riki Flutey may be on his way to the province next season as a replacement for departing Springbok Jean de Villiers.
Team manager Shaun Payne confirmed yesterday that Flutey was one of a number of possible targets but added that no approach had yet been made to contact the New Zealand-born centre, who is currently plying his trade with Brive in the French Top 14.
"We have obviously announced that Jean is leaving and we are looking for a replacement, the best-quality replacement we can get," said Payne. "There aren't a whole load of guys available, especially in a World Cup year. So would we be interested (in Flutey)? Yes, we would. Has anything been decided? No, nothing has been decided.
"We are talking to all the best centres that we can, and he would be one of the best centres that is available at the minute."
Meanwhile, it was confirmed that the case surrounding the eligibility of Wian du Preez's short-term contract is now officially over and that Munster have no case to answer despite the rather tenuous suggestions from the Ospreys that something was out of kilter.
It seems as though the Welsh club were perhaps trying to take the heat off themselves following on from their own alleged breach of player eligibility rules regarding the signing of Ricky Januarie, who has also since been cleared.
The ERC subsequently went ahead and reviewed all short-term contracts within both ERC competitions and, having gone over all documentation in relation to the signing of Du Preez, expressed their satisfaction that all was in order and the case is now closed.
The Munster squad, meanwhile, were put through their paces in Limerick yesterday ahead of this weekend's match against the Dragons at Rodney parade.
Ian Dowling sat out the session due to a strained ankle picked up against Edinburgh, but is expected to be fit and available for Saturday's clash. Nick Williams -- who scored a hat-trick of tries against the Dragons when they visited Cork last September -- is included in the panel for the first time this year having recovered from a lengthy knee injury.
Ronan O'Gara is also included in the 25-man squad as well as Tony Buckley, who also featured off the bench for Ireland at Twickenham last Saturday.
There was good news also for Damien Varley, who has returned to action sooner than expected, and could be in line for place in the match-day squad pending a fitness test later this week. Niall Ronan (bicep) and Tom Gleeson (hamstring) are both ruled out.