O'Connell a major doubt for Biarritz but Earls winning fitness race
MUNSTER seem destined to be without their talismanic captain Paul O'Connell when they face Biarritz in the Heineken Cup semi-final on May 2, but versatile winger Keith Earls, despite missing tomorrow night's Magners League clash with the Ospreys, is expected to be available for the San Sebastian showdown.
Both players have been battling groin injuries but, while Munster are optimistic Earls will have recovered in time for the trip to Spain, there is less positive news on O'Connell, who is understood to be seeking special medical advice from outside the province.
The second-row forward has not played since Ireland's Six Nations defeat to Scotland on March 20, but the consolation for Munster coach Tony McGahan has come in the form of Mick O'Driscoll, who has produced a series of accomplished displays in the second row over the past four weeks.
O'Driscoll is expected to be named today in the Munster side to face the Ospreys at Thomond Park with McGahan set to stick as closely as possible to the selection which will face Biarritz the follow weekend.
This could see up to 12 of the team which overcame Northampton Saints in the quarter-final included, with Lifeimi Mafi, Scott Deasy and Tom Gleeson coming in for Doug Howlett, Ian Dowling and Earls respectively -- all of whom are expected to be available next week.
Both teams are chasing home semi-finals and are locked together on 43 points, seven points behind leaders Leinster with two games to play.
MUNSTER (possible v Ospreys) -- P Warwick; L Mafi, T Gleeson, J De Villiers, S Deasy; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll; A Quinlan, D Wallace, J Coughlan.