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Munster want Flutey signing

Munster have refused to deny speculation that England centre 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 (pictured) was one of several targets but added no approach had yet been made to contact the New Zealand-born man, currently with Brive in France.

"We have announced that Jean is leaving and we are looking for a replacement, the best we can get," said Payne. "There aren't a whole load of guys available. Would we be interested (in Flutey)? Yes, we would. Has anything been decided? No, nothing.

"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 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 after their own alleged breach of player eligibility rules regarding the signing of Ricky Januarie, who has also been cleared.

The ERC went ahead and reviewed all short-term contracts within both ERC competitions and, having gone over all documents in relation to Du Preez, expressed their satisfaction that all was in order.

Munster, meanwhile, were put through their paces ahead of this weekend's Dragons match 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 in Cork last September, is included in the panel for the first time this year after recovering from a lengthy knee injury.

Ronan O'Gara and Tony Buckley are also included in the 25-man squad, while there was good news for Damien Varley, who has returned to action sooner than expected, and could be in line for a place in the match-day squad. Niall Ronan (bicep) and Tom Gleeson (hamstring) are both ruled out.

ERIC ELWOOD was expected to be unveiled as Connacht's new coach today.

The 41-year-old, who has been assistant to Michael Bradley for the past four-and-a-half seasons, will take over from his former Ireland half-back partner at the end of the campaign.

Elwood will become the first Connacht native to take charge of the province since the game went professional.

Elwood coached the Ireland U20 side to a Six Nations triumph three seasons ago, along with forwards coach Dan McFarland, who is expected to be part of the new management team for next season.

WALES backrow Andy Powell was banned from driving for 15 months yesterday after pleading guilty to driving a golf buggy while unfit through drink.

Powell (28) said: "I now intend to put this matter behind me and to get on with my rugby career and the remainder of the Cardiff Blues season."

IRELAND prop Tom Court and Scottish winger Simon Danielli have signed new two-year deals to keep them at Ulster until June 2012.

Stade Francais last night demanded England's RFU to immediately release flanker James Haskell so he can play in Saturday's Top 14 clash with Toulouse.