Friday 27 April 2018

O'Mahony and O'Driscoll out of European openers

Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll
Peter O'Mahony went over for one of Munster's tries
David Kelly

David Kelly

Munster have taken the unusual step of resting captain Peter O'Mahony for their Heineken Cup opener in Edinburgh tomorrow – despite repeated assertions from the player and club that he did not suffer concussion in last week's win over Leinster.

"Peter has been integrated back into training this week following on from his half-time replacement against Leinster last Saturday," said a Munster statement.

"All protocol re return to play has been followed and Peter has progressed normally in this regard. However, due to the heavy schedule in the upcoming weeks, including Rabo, Heineken and possible international involvement, a decision to omit Peter has been made."

It is highly unorthodox for a leading provincial player to be rested for Heineken Cup matches for such reasons. Paddy Butler is the beneficiary, while Conor Murray also makes his first start of the season in a side captained by Paul O'Connell.

Leinster's Heineken Cup chances have been dealt a significant blow as Brian O'Driscoll will not be fit to feature in tomorrow's opening-round game in Swansea against Ospreys.

O'Driscoll suffered a calf injury last week and his leadership was sorely missed in defeat to Munster at Thomond Park, and coach Matt O'Connor has been forced to plunge Brendan Macken into the line-up for his first European start.

However, Jamie Heaslip has given the youngster a vote of confidence in a side that will also have to cope with the absences of experienced duo Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings. "Everyone knows that sooner or later you're going to get an opportunity and it's up to you to take it," said Heaslip.

"This is, for some guys, another massive opportunity. I was just talking to Brendan, it's his first start in the Heineken Cup and he can't wait.

"Some guys like that are going to step up and it's going to be a great chance, a great day for them."

Jared Payne switches back to full-back as Ulster kick off their challenge against Leicester at Ravenhill tonight, while Connacht have been boosted by the return of their record caps holder Michael Swift ahead of the visit of English giants Saracens to the Sportsgrounds.

Munster (v Edinburgh) – F Jones; K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, S Archer; D Ryan, P O'Connell (capt); P Butler, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, J Cronin, BJ Botha, D O'Callaghan, CJ Stander, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, D Hurley.

Irish Independent

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