O’Gara ruled out of Reds squad for Ospreys trip

RONAN O’GARA has been omitted from the Munster squad for tomorrow night’s top-of-the-table Magners League game against the Ospreys as a precautionary measure.

The star out-half sustained a hamstring twinge early in last week’s clash with Ulster and retired after 14 minutes.

He has had ongoing treatment throughout the week and while coach Tony McGahan wasn’t prepared to risk him for the Ospreys game, the near certainty is that O’Gara will be available for the all-important Heineken Cup game against Sale Sharks a week later.

Having rested a number of key players against Connacht and Ulster in adherence with the IRFU guide lines on elite players, McGahan plans to field his strongest possible side at the Liberty Stadium.

And the good news is that Denis Leamy returns after long-time injury and is likely to get some game time against the Ospreys, who now lead Munster by a single point at the head of the Magners table.

Leamy struggled initially with a shoulder injury from which he recovered in time to start the famous game against the All Blacks in mid-November.

However, he took a knock to the knee in that game which necessitated his withdrawal after 20 minutes and he has been in rehab ever since.

Should he come through tomorrow night’s match without any further difficulty, Leamy will come into the reckoning for a place in the starting line-up against Sale, and, of course, inclusion in the national panel due to be announced by Declan Kidney in 10 days time.

Also returning after injury are captain Paul O’Connell and scrum-half Tomas O’Leary and others included in an extended 28-man squad are fellow internationals David Wallace, Marcus Horan and Keith Earls.

There is also a place for Anthony Horgan, whose contract was recently extended and who helped Cork Constitution to victory in the Munster Senior Cup final on Sunday. Duncan Williams, another member of that Con side, is one of four scrum-halves in the panel. Yesterday’s session planned for Garryowen FC had to be moved to an all-weather facility at Ardnacrusha because the pitch was frozen. Absent were Horan, Earls, Niall Ronan, Mick O’Driscoll and Tony Buckley, all laid low by a tummy bug. The hope is that all will be available for selection by lunchtime today but Rua Tipoki is ruled out by the hamstring strain that he suffered against Ulster.

Although the recent cold weather conditions have impacted on the sporting calendar in Britain, the undersoil heating system at the Liberty stadium, will ensure the game goes ahead.

Despite the province’s recent dip in form, team manager Shaun Payne is confident that the character of the squad will see them recover.

“I think there is a huge honesty in this group and a great work ethic and we need to work our way through this. I think maybe people didn’t give Ulster the credit they deserved for what was an exceptional performance while games against Connacht have always been close run affairs.

“For the past two seasons for example those games have gone our way right at the end and narrowly while I can remember a few 3-0 wins as well. So we have to recognise the quality of the opposition we’ve lost to. Having said that we know we didn’t produce the type of performance that we expected of ourselves and that’s something we must address.

We need to cut down on the mistakes and just tighten up generally. The game on Friday is going to be a huge test, Ospreys are another quality side, league leaders, extremely difficult to beat at the best of times particularly at home so another massive test but one we are looking forward to and ideal preparation for the next fortnight.”

MUNSTER SQUAD: Backs: D. Hurley, D. Howlett, K. Earls, I. Dowling, A. Horgan, K. Lewis, L. Mafi, B. Murphy, T. O’Leary, D. Williams, P. Stringer, M. Prendergast, J. Manning, P. Warwick. Forwards: M. Horan, F. Pucciariello, J. Hayes, T. Ryan, J. Flannery, D. Fogarty, P. O’Connell, M. O’Driscoll, D. O’Callaghan, A. Quinlan, D. Ryan, N. Ronan, D. Wallace, D. Leamy.

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