Monday 21 May 2018

Munster sweat on O'Connell

Hugh Farrelly

FOLLOWING their momentous Heineken Cup quarter-final win over Northampton at Thomond Park on Saturday, Munster are working on their injured trio of captain Paul O'Connell and wing pair Doug Howlett and Ian Dowling in a bid to get them fit in time for the semi-final showdown with Biarritz in San Sebastien on May 2.

O'Connell continues to receive treatment on the groin strain which ruled him out of the Saints clash while Saturday's two-try hero Howlett (hamstring) and Dowling (knee) went for scans yesterday.

Munster may opt to rest a clutch of players for Sunday's Magners League meeting with Connacht in Galway, which could open the door for the likes of Tom Gleeson, Danny Barnes and Scott Deasy in the backline as well as Damien Varley, Dave Ryan, Billy Holland and Peter O'Mahony up front.

As a result, Munster announced a youthful squad to travel to England to take on Esher tomorrow as Anthony Foley prepares for their British and Irish Cup semi-final in less than two weeks' time.

Biarritz coach Jack Isaac, on the other hand, does not intend to protect his star players as they chase a play-off place in the Top 14.

The French side play their final two league games before taking on Munster with the teams finishing third to sixth going into play-offs to determine who faces the top two seeds in the Top 14 semi-finals. Biarritz lie seventh, three points behind sixth-placed Racing Metro Paris and Isaac takes his men to Racing next weekend in what is a shoot-out for that sixth position.

If they manage an away victory in Paris, the Australian will need his main men again for the home meeting with Clermont Auvergne, who are safely qualified and chasing one of the top two slots. However, if they lose to Racing, Isaac will channel all his energies into the Munster showdown as a top-six finish will be out of reach.

Meanwhile, Munster's allocation of tickets for the semi-final will not be put on public sale and will be distributed through the usual channels of the clubs and Munster Supporters Club. The Estadio Anoeta has a 32,000 capacity, with an expected 8,000 visiting fans expected to travel to Spain, and Heineken Cup organisers European Rugby Cup will confirm Munster's allocation over the next few days.

Irish Independent

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