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Toulon blast Irish critics over mercenaries ‘insult’

THE temperature is rising ahead of Munster's crucial Heineken Cup clash against Toulon.

On the day Tony McGahan declared Paul O'Connell ready to start, the French club yesterday lashed their Irish critics who insulted them before their 45-18 trouncing in Thomond Park last October.

Following a full-blooded training session in Cork, Munster coach McGahan said he had picked his starting XV for the must-win Pool 3 encounter.

The Australian described it as the most difficult team selection of his time with the province and gave O'Connell the thumbs-up for a central role this weekend.

"Paul is in very good nick," said McGahan. "He's always been fit, and if anything, he's been able to train harder and push himself.

"He's obviously missing the game time that you really need to get game-fit, but he's fine to start."

McGahan also confirmed that the injury worries surrounding prop Tony Buckley, centre Sam Tuitupou and winger Doug Howlett have receded.

"All the medics are fine with regard to Tony, Sam and Doug, who were all late withdrawals last week, so they're all fine at this stage," said McGahan, who added that Munster chose not to register another player this week because "all our bases are covered."

"When you're down to only a couple of hookers and nines, etc, you've got to make sure you're not doing it a week early, so we've held off and if we need to we'll make a decision next week," he said.

Meanwhile, following his controversial statement that Munster is a province funded by the IMF, Toulon's colourful president Mourad Boujellal poured further fuel on the fire yesterday over perceived Irish insults.

"The Irish press insulted us in the first leg by calling us mercenaries," said Boujellal. "But it's not about revenge. The Heineken Cup is not the priority, I am first a child of the (Top 14) Championship.

"The European Cup is all about enjoyment for players. We want to show the world Toulon.

"We are continuing our efforts to expand our staff after we realised that at Munster there was a specialist for everything, almost someone to cut lemons. I learned a lot during that trip.

"We're Mediterran- ean, not look like other audiences, but when I see something great as was (the silence for kickers) at Thomond Park, I want to be like that," stressed Boujellal, who has asked the home fans not to boo opposing kickers on Sunday.

"I confess to having been awed and admiring (of Thomond). Even when we led with the first score, the silence was absolute," he recollected.

Irish Independent