Friday 15 December 2017

Munster play 'waiting game' with O'Connell ahead of vital trip to Biarritz

Ian Bransfield

Munster are already fearing the worst regarding Paul O'Connell's race to be fit for next month's Heineken Cup semi-final tie against Biarritz.

The Limerick lock forward was a late withdrawal from the Munster side which dumped Northampton out of the Heineken Cup last Saturday and he continues to struggle with a groin injury sustained during the Six Nations.

O'Connell will definitely sit out this weekend's Magners League clash against Connacht and though Munster chiefs are still hoping he will be available for the trip to San Sebastian, it's very much a case of wait-and-see for Tony McGahan.

Speaking from base camp in Limerick yesterday, team manager Shaun Payne said: "It is an injury that needs rest and we'll be taking that into account over the next few weeks leading up to the semi-final.

"It's not a broken arm or something where there is a defined recovery period. At the minute we're just playing a waiting game."

There was better news for wingers Ian Dowling and Doug Howlett, who both received positive feedback yesterday after undergoing scans on Monday.

Dowling was forced off during the first half against Northampton with a knee injury whilst Howlett suffered a hamstring strain.


The early indications are that neither injury is serious, however, and both should be fully fit and available for Biarritz.

Former world player of the year Shane Williams believes Munster have the attacking ability to hurt Biarritz, having spotted weaknesses in the French side's armoury during last weekend quarter-final clash.

The Ospreys winger was unable to prevent his opposite number Takudzwa Ngwenya running 80 metres for one of Biarritz's two tries in their 29-28 victory, but Williams believes Munster can follow their try-scoring example.

"Biarritz are beatable," said Williams. "We have shown that you can score tries against Biarritz. We all know what kind of a team Munster are and they will have to take their chances."

McGahan's men resume training this morning after a couple of down days post-Northampton. The squad to face Connacht will be named today, while the starting XV will be announced on Friday.

Meanwhile, Munster flanker Alan Quinlan has been called up to join team-mates Jean de Villiers, Doug Howlett and Paul Warwick in the Barbarians squad to face Ireland in Thomond Park at the start of June.

The side will be coached by Philippe Saint-Andre and other players included in the squad include England internationals Danny Cipriani and Paul Sackey, and All Blacks Jerry Collins and Carl Hayman.

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