Friday 17 November 2017

Ryan primed for O'Mahony role as Horan backs Reds to pull off shock

Munster's Donnacha Ryan
Munster's Donnacha Ryan

David Kelly and Ruaidhri O'Connor

Donnacha Ryan will be given every chance to prove his fitness for Munster's daunting trip to Marseille as two-time Heineken Cup winner Marcus Horan warned Toulon it would be "dangerous" to disrespect the Irish province ahead of Sunday's semi-final.

Ireland forward Ryan will train with the team this morning before Rob Penney names his team at midday, with the Tipperary native in the frame to take Peter O'Mahony's spot at blindside flanker if he can prove his fitness.

The versatile 30-year-old would appear to have a greater chance of making the grade than JJ Hanrahan, who is fighting to overcome a groin tear.

CJ Stander is the other option for the No 6 shirt but Ryan's experience could see him favoured, with Dave Foley remaining alongside Paul O'Connell in the second-row.

Sean Dougall is also pushing hard to take over from Tommy O'Donnell at openside as Munster look to negate the influence of Toulon's Steffon Armitage.

The bookies are offering an eight-point spread in the French side's favour, but Horan believes his former team-mates will react well to being written off.

"I don't think anyone in the rugby world is giving Munster much of a chance but I think that's a great thing. Knowing the characters in the Munster team, I think they'll thrive on that," said the 2009 Grand Slam-winning loosehead.

"The likes of Paul O'Connell will definitely have the lads well prepared but there is a healthy respect for Toulon because of our history of going out there and getting a good beating a couple of years ago.

"But you might question whether that's reciprocated. That's going to be a telling point in the Munster dressing-room, the fact that Toulon mightn't respect the Munster lads as much, and that can be a very dangerous thing."

Aside from heaping praise on Munster's increasing strength in depth, which has now seen them reach two successive European semi-finals, he also paid tribute to the legacy being left by departing coach Rob Penney.

"I think Rob has brought in a huge amount. He has definitely given huge confidence to the younger lads and you could see from the start that he was keen to get younger lads blooded. The skill of the lads in the backs has improved."

Irish Independent

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