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Horgan alert to Felix threat

RECORD-BREAKING Shane Horgan has warned that Leinster’s former Academy player Felix Jones could be a secret weapon for Munster in the Magners League at Thomond Park this evening.



St Andrew’s College graduate Jones was at full-back on the Ireland U20 Grand Slam-winning side of 2007, alongside Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien and Keith Earls. Rather than wait in line at Leinster, he chose to move south.

“We know Felix first hand from being up here. We were sorry to see him go. He is a really quality player. He has had a tough time with injuries,” said Horgan, who will become the first Leinster player to break the 200-cap barrier tonight. A serious neck injury looked like ending Jones’ career in December 2009. Just when he had made his way back from that, cruciate ligament damage set him back last September. It has taken perseverance to overcome these setbacks.

REMARKABLE

“I don’t think he has had a tough time adapting to Munster. He is very highly thought of down there. His scores in all the (physical conditioning) tests are always remarkable. That is coming out on the pitch now. He is one of their danger players,” said Horgan.

For Leinster, this is one of the great imponderables – whether to go toe-to-toe against an immovable object or slip and slide away from the punches in the manner of an irresistible force. Has coach Joe Schmidt played right into the hands of Munster by going with the strength of Isaac Boss at scrum-half ahead of the higher tempo of Eoin Reddan? The robust Boss has held off Reddan to partner Jonathan Sexton in a ploy to stop the Munster back row on or near the gain line, with Reddan primed to speed the game up in a cameo role.

While this decision alone is not everything, it does indicate a mindset of ‘take them on at their own game’. Perhaps, Leinster finally feel as though they have the tools to beat Munster any which way.

Ireland’s fallen hero Luke Fitzgerald will continue his psychological rehabilitation – he looked sharp against The Dragons – on the left wing where he can pick and choose his moments of intervention. The only real bones of possible contention are at scrum-half and blindside, given that Shane Jennings could not beat off what Schmidt called a “knee niggle”.

The powerfully built Kevin McLaughlin – he put on five kilos in weight during his recovery from long-term injury – has held off the considerable claims of young guns Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock, the latter residing on the bench. Munster coach Tony McGahan has taken the luxury of playing with one eye on next season.

He has kept Peter Stringer and Paul Warwick on the bench to throw rookie scrum-half Conor Murray and Jones in at the deepest end.

MUNSTER: F Jones; D Howlett, J Murphy,

L Mafi, K Earls; R O’Gara, C Murray;

W du Preez, D Varley, T Buckley,

D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell (capt),

D Ryan, D Wallace, J Coughlan.

LEINSTER: I Nacewa; S Horgan, B O’Driscoll,

G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, I Boss; C

Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), N

Hines, K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.

MUNSTER v LEINSTER, LIVE RTÉ2 (7.30)


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