Saturday 16 December 2017

Williams joins Munster injury list

Nick Williams is the latest casualty as Munster's injury list continues to mount ahead of Saturday's Magners League tie against the Ospreys.

The Kiwi back-rower was forced off in the second half against Connacht last weekend with a groin strain and does not feature in Tony McGahan's 27-man squad. However, club officials are confident that he will recover in time for the Heineken Cup semi-final with Biarritz the following Sunday.

The news on Keith Earls and Paul O'Connell (both groin) was less clear and both are now in a race against time to be fit for the trip to San Sebastian.

Team manager Shaun Payne said he was hopeful that both would be available but admitted a cut-off point will apply next week if they are unable to train.

"It's an injury that needs rest," he said. "We'd be confident that both of them will be available, but these are difficult injuries and they are very frustrating for us to have to deal with.

"We need them training. They can't go into a game without any preparation at all. So that is something we have to take into consideration."

Elsewhere, Doug Howlett and Ian Dowling are laid low with hamstring and knee injuries respectively, but are expected to train early next week.

Denis Hurley, meanwhile, has recovered from a hamstring injury and is in the extended squad, which also features Tony Buckley, who was forced off against Connacht with a knee injury. Buckley had his knee strapped in training yesterday and is being monitored.

Injury concerns aside, Payne believes McGahan will name his strongest possible team in an effort to secure a home semi-final in the Magners League, despite the looming semi-final clash in Spain.

The Ospreys, meanwhile, resume training today following a couple of down days and club officials have been busy making alternative travel arrangements to ensure they arrive in Limerick on time.

Saturday's match will form the second part of a double-header in Thomond Park which also sees the Munster 'A' side take on the Ulster Ravens in the semi-final of the British & Irish Cup.

Anthony Foley's troops are unbeaten this season and have already beaten their Ulster counterparts twice in inter-pros.

A provisional 23-man squad has been named for the clash but there are several players in the senior squad who will come into contention for Foley when the numbers are cut on Friday.

"There is a bit of marrying to go on there," says the former No 8. "But we all work in the same building, so it should be easy enough. It's a big game, it's a derby against another province.

"We've played each other twice and we have the physiological thing of having beaten them twice and how to deal with that. Do we ignore it or do we face it front on?

"With this group we face everything front on. We understand that we are both starting at evens on Saturday and history on the day doesn't count for much."

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