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McGahan stays on centre path

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan is poised to stick with the Jean de Villiers-Keith Earls midfield combination and keep David Wallace at No8 for this weekend's crucial Heineken Cup trip to Treviso.

The Australian picked what looked to be his strongest available side for last weekend's Magners League clash with the Scarlets, but, although the cancellation of that fixture has disrupted Munster's preparations, there were strong indications in Cork yesterday that the coach would stick closely to the same selection for Saturday's match in Italy.

"We were really looking forward to seeing the combinations we selected against Scarlets in the forwards and the backs," said McGahan.

"But that opportunity was taken away from us and we really just need to go on gut instinct and feel what would be best without getting those combinations last weekend. So some of those assumptions wouldn't be far from the mark."

Although Wallace is Ireland's incumbent openside flanker and starred there for the Lions last summer, he excelled in the No8 position when he played there last season, while the new centre pairing have tremendous potential, the direct style of De Villiers looks to be well-complemented by Earls' quick feet at outside centre.

Furthermore, it allows Denis Hurley to remain in the back three, alongside Doug Howlett and Paul Warwick, where the Irishman's form has put him into Six Nations contention.

After last weekend's cancellation, the game has come too soon for loosehead prop Marcus Horan and hooker Jerry Flannery, and McGahan conceded that Treviso's front-row power was a big factor in this decision.

Treviso defeated Perpignan in their opening pool game, led Munster for much of the first half in their second match at Thomond Park and troubled Northampton Saints in their back-to-back clashes last month.

Although McGahan did not agree that Munster were "rattled" in the first half of their Thomond clash, he is wary of the threat posed by the Italians.

"Treviso have been one of the best performing sides in the Heineken Cup. You look at the quality of the pool they are in and the quality of performances they have put up. So they represent a big challenge," added McGahan.

Meanwhile, Leinster's Bernard Jackman has revealed that they have taken no chances when it comes to the preparation for Saturday's visit to Dublin of French Top 14 side Brive.

"We have been studying them closely for the last number of weeks," said Jackman. "The scouting we have made on them for the away game was different -- then they were up and down and there was no clear pattern to them, but the last few games has been different.

"Even when they went to Clermont and got well beaten (in the Top 14) they turned up physically and went with a game plan that set a stall defensively.

"(But) When we went over to play them ... you sensed there wasn't a great buzz in their squad."


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