Friday 24 November 2017

Munster face midfield crisis after Tuitupou cited by ERC

Ruaidhri O'Connor and Donnchadh Boyle

MUNSTER could be facing into a midfield crisis ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup showdown with Toulon after centre Sam Tuitupou was cited for a "dangerous tackle" by the ERC last night.

The Tongan was yellow-carded for a first-half spear-tackle on London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson and a mid-range offence of this kind usually incurs a six-week suspension. Tuitupou returned to the action to score Munster's try that sealed a losing bonus point for McGahan's men.

The province are already without the suspended Lifeimi Mafi for the Toulon game and, with Keith Earls slowly regaining match fitness on his return from injury, Munster's midfield options would be severely limited should the former All Black pick up a ban at his hearing in Dublin tomorrow.

Another centre option Tom Gleeson is out through injury (jaw), meaning Munster could look to Paul Warwick to fill the full-back spot and shift Johne Murphy into midfield.

Meanwhile, Brian O'Driscoll's hamstring injury is not as bad as first feared but the Ireland captain faces a race against time to be fit for Leinster's Wembley date with Saracens. The centre was replaced midway through the second half of the province's 38-22 victory over Racing Metro but, having undergone a scan on the muscle, the initial results are positive.

Leinster skipper Leo Cullen is in line for a recall for the clash, having stepped up his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury. Cullen trained with the squad yesterday while O'Driscoll was absent from the session at UCD. Forwards coach Jono Gibbes said both players needed to come through Thursday's pre-match training session in order to be proved fit.

"Brian had a scan and that revealed a more positive outlook than we expected," he said. "It's still not definitive but we'll get a clearer idea at the end of the week. The positive thing is that he hasn't been definitively ruled out."

Irish Independent

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