Sheahan eager for chance to make his mark

FRANKIE SHEAHAN is delighted to be back in the front row at Musgrave Park tonight (7pm) as Munster take on Leicester Tigers in a pre-season friendly.

Sheahan has been out of action with a career-threatening injury for the last 10 months and is happy with the idea of a return against the top English side.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said yesterday.

Sheahan has spent several months trying to recover from a neck injury sustained in Munster’s opening Heineken Cup game against Sale Sharks last season. He missed the rest of the season, Munster’s dramatic victory march and Ireland’s successful Six Nations.

His injury provided an amazing opportunity for Jerry Flannery to go from strength to strength, but the irony is that Flannery is now out with a shoulder problem for at least six months. Sheahan can sympathise but won’t dwell on Flannery’s predicament. “My main focus is to get back to full fitness, and that really means match-fitness at this stage.

“Last year was brilliant apart from my personal injury; it was just great from a Munster and Irish perspective. It hurt not to be part of it, but I had to be delighted for the lads,” he said.

Named in an experimental side that includes a number of “rookies”, Sheahan is still looking forward to taking on Leicester. “It’s our first game of the season, it’s the fourth game for them, so they will be a little bit ahead in terms of preparation.

“Declan (Kidney) is giving an opportunity for some young guys to make a mark, and that’s one of the reasons why Munster have done so well over the years — it’s about developing an nurturing local talent as much as possible,” he said.

The youngsters, including the more experienced rookies, are Tom Gleeson, Chris Delooze, James Coughlan and Brendan Cutriss, but they will be joined by experience in the form of Christian Cullen, captain John Kelly, Sheahan, Federico Pucciariello and new Welsh recruit Chris Wyatt.

It should be an interesting contest given Leicester’s tougher build-up and more experienced side.

MUNSTER: C. Cullen, J. Kelly (captain), T. Gleeson, J. Downey, I. Dowling, J. Manning, C. Delooze, E. McGovern, F. Sheahan, F. Pucciariello, C. Wyatt, D. Ryan, J. Coughlan, J. O’Sullivan, B. Cutriss.

LEICESTER: S. Vesty, G. Murphy, D. Hitkiss, D. Gibson (captain), T. Varndell, P. Burke, H. Ellis, M. Castrogiovanni, G. Chuter, J. White, L. Cullen, L. Deacon, G. Crane, H. Tuilagi, S. Jennings.

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