Friday 24 November 2017

Munster play waiting game on O'Connell, O'Leary fitness

Munster coach Tony McGahan is waiting on the fitness of Tomas O'Leary and captain Paul O'Connell ahead of Saturday's Amlin Cup semi-final against Harlequins.

Neither of the two were included in a 27-man preliminary squad named yesterday, but they have not been ruled out of the Thomond Park clash.

McGahan said the panel was a "reflection of those who are fit at this point in time", meaning that both players could still come into contention for places.

O'Connell hasn't played since injuring his ankle ligaments in the Magners League victory over Leinster earlier this month, but made a return to full training on Tuesday and came through yesterday's session unscathed.

His progress will be monitored further, but even if he does prove his fitness it's not yet certain as to whether he will play any part in Saturday's game.

"Reports a couple of weeks ago were indicating that he would be out of the rest of the season, so it will be a big stretch to get him ready for this week," said McGahan.

Scrum-half O'Leary, who hasn't played competitively since mid-February, is in a similar boat to O'Connell.


Having spent five weeks recovering from an eye injury, he was due to make his Munster comeback in an 'A' match against Moseley last Saturday, but pulled out due to a recurrence of the back problem which curtailed his Six Nations involvement.

He will be given every opportunity to work his way back into the squad, though McGahan admitted that asking him to start might be demanding too much.

"We've done that before, but we have some really good No 9s who are playing well at the moment," said the Australian. "He has lost a lot of weight due to being inactive because of his back injury.

"We'll again have to wait and see how he gets through training."

There were no other injury concerns as of yesterday evening, with utility back Johne Murphy making a return to the squad after missing last weekend's victory over the Ospreys due to an eye injury.

Denis Leamy also returns to the mix having been rested for the trip to Swansea. It appears he will have a major battle on his hands if he is to reclaim his No 6 jersey from Donnacha Ryan, who was so impressive at the Liberty Stadium.

"Donnacha was tremendous," said McGahan of the versatile Tipperary man.

"It was certainly his best game at six for us, especially defensively; he has worked really hard at that aspect of his game over the last short period of time and he was certainly very effective."

Munster will name their starting XV and replacements at lunch-time tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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