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Horan out in cold as lack of game-time takes toll

Munster will be close to full strength for this Sunday's Magners League clash against the Scarlets at Musgrave Park.

Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Tomás O'Leary and Keith Earls are all included in the panel having been rested for last weekend's trip to Ulster.

There is no place, however, for the regular front-row trio of John Hayes, Marcus Horan or Jerry Flannery.

Hayes has been granted an extra week's rest as part of IRFU guidelines, whilst both Horan and Flannery are still battling for fitness ahead of this month's final two Heineken Cup pool games against Treviso and Northampton.

Horan had been scheduled to play for Shannon against UCC in the Munster Senior Cup last weekend, but the match was called off due to the weather.

Instead, it is hoped that he will play full 80 minutes for Shannon this weekend against St Mary's in the AIL First Division, but that match is also at risk as the cold snap continues into the weekend.

If Horan fails to feature for his club, it seems unlikely that he will come into contention for a Munster place during this phase of the season.

Speaking from Limerick yesterday, team manager Shaun Payne said: "The situation with Marcus is that he has trained really well. He's been training with the squad full-time and doing all his contact sessions.

"He was due to get some game-time with Shannon last week, but unfortunately it didn't happen with the cancellations."

He added: "We basically want Marcus to get a full game under his belt with his club before he becomes available to us. However, the weather I'm afraid is playing havoc with all the fixtures this weekend. And the situation with the weather is far from ideal."

In other squad news, Academy prop Darragh Hurley is still in hospital with an eye infection, whilst it was confirmed that Felix Jones will miss the rest of the season as he recovers from a neck injury which forced him off the park against Connacht on St Stephen's Day.

"Felix is out of hospital," said Payne yesterday. "He had a procedure performed on his neck, which was successful.

"At this stage we probably won't see him again this season. He's really positive, he's very happy with the outcome of the procedure that he had done. We're looking at five to six months of recovery time.

"It's just something we're not going to mess about with and give him all the time he needs to recover."

Meanwhile, it seems certain that Munster will field their strongest side for this weekend's clash as they prepare for the trip to Treviso in the Heineken Cup six days later.

When asked whether all the front- line internationals would be included from the start, Payne simply answered: "If you look back through what has happened in the past, I think you'll see the answer to that question."

Elsewhere, due to ongoing adverse weather conditions, contingency plans are in place to move Sunday's game to Limerick if the surface in Musgrave Park is deemed unplayable.

If the decision is taken to move the game, information will be posted immediately on the Munster Rugby website, circulated through the media, with direct communication by email to Supporters Club members, season ticket holders, clubs, schools and supporters who have bought tickets online or over the telephone.

This communication will include information on how to use match tickets for this game in Thomond Park or a refund policy if unable to attend/travel.

A further update will be posted on the Munster Rugby website by 3.0 tomorrow afternoon, though Payne seemed confident that the fixture would survive.

"I'm very positive that this game will go ahead," he said. "In fact I can't see any reason why it won't."

Munster -- (Squad v Scarlet) (Forwards) W du Preez, S Archer, T Buckley, D Fogarty, D Varley, P O'Connell, D Ryan, D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll, A Quinlan, N Ronan, B Holland, D Wallace, J Coughlan. (Backs) D Hurley, I Dowling, D Howlett, T Gleeson, J de Villiers, K Earls, L Mafi, P Warwick, R O'Gara, D Williams, T O'Leary, P Stringer.

Irish Independent