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O'Connell back but Ferris still a doubt for Thomond

PAUL O'CONNELL will line-out for Munster in Sunday's Thomond Park Heineken Cup showdown but doubts still remain over the participation of Ulster powerhouse Stephen Ferris.

The injury crisis at Munster is a thing of the past after O'Connell, Donnacha Ryan, David Wallace, Conor Murray and Denis Hurley returned to training yesterday.

O'Connell said there is no need for his great motivational speeches this week given the enormity of this weekend's showdown with the Ulstermen.

"There is very little needed to be said to the lads on a week like this," said the 32-year-old. "Everyone knows how important it is playing in Limerick, in Thomond Park in a Heineken Cup quarter-final.

"It's one of those weeks as captain where you actually have very little to say. Guys have a big focus on their own jobs and when you have that from early on in the week, it always gives you a nice feeling going into the game.

"Guys are aware of how tough it is going to be and how deep we're going to have to dig to get a win."

If O'Connell is central to Munster hopes then their rivals' chances hinge on Ferris' availability.

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin said the hard-hitting flanker is "desperate" to play a part in the provincial duel and will be given "all the time possible" to prove his fitness.

"We are very keen to have Stevie fit and playing, but it is a race against time," McLaughlin said.



Issues

"We'll have to see how he progresses this week. There were a few issues with his ankle but the medics are working on that."

McLaughlin believes his players will have the confidence and ability to hit the ground running when they meet with a raucous Thomond Park crowd.

"The one thing we've learned in the last couple of years, and from last year especially, is that our key players have been excellent on occasions like these," said McLaughlin, who could win the Heineken Cup next month despite losing his job at the end of the season.

"They're great in the changing room, their conversations, the work they do all week in training, in terms of cajoling the younger guys and putting pressure on them to push their performance levels to the top, but without too much pressure.

"Certainly this week, the first 20 minutes are going to be all-out war. The players need to be up for it the minute they go through the door."


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