Sheahan set to hit comeback trail as Munster meet Leicester

FRANKIE SHEAHAN is set to resurrect his representative rugby career in a friendly game against Leicester Tigers at Musgrave Park on Friday night (7pm).

The Ireland and Munster hooker is named in a squad of 26 players for the first time since sustaining a neck injury against Sale Sharks ten months ago.

Munster coach Declan Kidney has named 13 players fully contracted to Munster, six more from the Munster Academy, five development players and two from clubs — scrum half Jerry Hurley (Garryowen) and flanker Brendan Cutriss (Cork Constitution).

It is a very inexperienced squad overall, but Kidney does have the luxury of being able to include Federico Pucciariello and new signing Chris White in the pack alongside Sheahan, Christian Cullen, John Kelly, Shaun Payne, Tomas O’Leary and Mossie Lawlor in the backs.

Leicester, who meet the current Heineken Cup champions in this year’s competition, are building for the forthcoming Guinness Premiership and come into this clash on the back of three games.

Coach Pat Howard was not impressed with Leicester’s display in their most recent game, a 39-19 win over Toulon, and he has demanded a far more intensity against Munster.

Howard warned his players to expect no mercy on the training ground this week, and commented: “We will do a lot of hard work and probably go to Munster a little bit tired, but we want to play against them with the players under a bit of duress. Munster will probably not be at full strength and we might make a few changes.

“We played poorly as a group overall against Toulon and the most disappointing part of that was that we played significantly better against Castres and Stade Français the previous week, and they are stronger opposition.”

The disappointing show against Toulon did merit extra training, according to centre and former All Black Daryl Gibson.

He captained the side in the absence of Martin Corry and admitted: “I think overall we were pretty disappointed. In the first half we had certain goals as a team but conditions did not allow us to control the ball as well as we would have liked. We went into the game with a view to trying a lot of things and taking things off the practice ground into a match situation. Some things came off, some others didn’t.”

Leicester fly in to Cork tomorrow, and Howard is expected to wait until then to finalise his team. With the Guinness Premiership looming, he will surely name the strongest available side.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has made 11 changes and a positional switch to his side to take on South Africa in the Tri-Nations at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Henry has shuffled virtually his entire pack and backline, with only captain Richie McCaw, fly-half Daniel Carter and centres Luke McAlister and Mils Muliana being retained.

The All Blacks have already won the Tri-Nations, meaning Henry can try a less structured approach for the game in his attempt to secure his first win in South Africa as New Zealand coach.

NEW ZEALAND: L. MacDonald; R. Gear, M. Muliana, L. McAlister, S. Sivivatu; D. Carter, P. Weepu; N. Tialata, A. Oliver, G. Somerville, G. Rawlinson, A. Williams, R. Thorne, R. McCaw (capt), C. Masoe.

Replacements: K. Mealamu, T. Woodcock, C. Jack, J. Collins, J. Cowan, S. Tuitupou, I. Toeava.

MUNSTER (from): Forwards — E. McGovern, F. Pucciariello, D. Hurley, T. Ryan, F. Sheahan, S. Cronin, C. Wyatt, D. Ryan, S. O’Connor, R. Noonan, J. Coughlan, J. O’Sullivan, B. Cutriss.

Backs: C. Delooze, T. O’Leary, J. Hurley, E. Hickey, J. Manning, J. Downey, T. Gleeson, S. Payne, J. Kelly, I. Dowling, C. Cullen, C. O’Boyle, M. Lawlor.

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