Tuesday 16 January 2018

Munster blow as Howlett and Dowling out of Biarritz clash

Hugh Farrelly

MUNSTER'S preparations for tomorrow's Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with Biarritz in San Sebastian were rocked by the late withdrawals of wingers Doug Howlett and Ian Dowling yesterday.

Howlett and Dowling were originally named in an unchanged line-up from the quarter-final but failed to come through the Captain's Run in Thomond Park yesterday, with Lifeimi Mafi and Denis Hurley named in their place.

Mafi's place on the bench is taken by Cork Constitution centre Tom Gleeson, with club-mate Scott Deasy covering the backline from outside-half out.

Meanwhile, Toulouse second-row Patrique Albacete believes chasing the dream of a Heineken Cup-Top 14 double is "almost impossible" ahead of this afternoon's European semi-final meeting with Leinster.

Toulouse go in as overwhelming favourites as Leinster are minus their first-choice out-half Jonathan Sexton with Shaun Berne starting.

But, while the double remains Toulouse's goal, the Argentinian lock says competing on two fronts is a huge challenge. "Combining the Heineken Cup and Top 14 is almost impossible because every single week we have important games," said Albacete. "The Heineken Cup is a dream. The schedule is intense, but that is certainly the goal."

Leinster start Cian Healy at loose-head, while Rob Kearney and Shane Horgan return to full-back and right wing respectively.

Irish Independent

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