Flannery and Earls boost for Munster

MUNSTER could have Jerry Flannery and Keith Earls back for Heineken Cup action within the next fortnight, a welcome boost in advance of Saturday’s Magners League clash with Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.

After suffering a treble blow in a game against the Ospreys on September 18 when Denis Fogarty, Felix Jones and Ian Dowling were each ruled out for months, Munster coach Tony McGahan yesterday reported positive progress for both Flannery and Earls as ERC ties against London Irish and Toulon loom.

He said: “Keith, we hope, will participate in training at the back end of this week; it depends on how he gets through that but he might be available for selection in the next two weeks. Jerry will also do some training this week with the idea of selection inside the next couple of weeks.”

As Munster prepare for one of the biggest battle of the season with arch-rivals Leinster, it’s not all positive news with the unfortunate Jones now having to undergo a knee operation on Friday. McGahan confirmed that it would keep him out of action for up to six months, while Ian Dowling could be sidelined for at least 12 weeks with a hip injury. Already, Fogarty has been ruled out until the early part of 2011.

Nevertheless, there is still plenty to enthuse about for Munster after four straight Magners League victories and a table-topping position with 18 points from a possible 20.

Having come successfully through two tough games on the road, Munster will regard the trip to Dublin as less daunting given they are sure to have a sizeable slice of support in the sell-out crowd of just over 50,000.

On the negative side, they have lost four games on the bounce to their old rivals and McGahan doesn’t believe that struggling Leinster will be any less dangerous.

“You can’t argue with history and can’t argue with the stats the way they stand.”

McGahan did enthuse about the fact that the game has been moved from the RDS and has sold out without difficulty. He believes it’s a tribute to both teams and to Irish rugby in general: “To fill a stadium of that size is testimony of where the game is in Ireland,” he said.

He hopes it will be a classic but he wouldn’t dare make predictions: “I think the only way you can judge these games is how the opposition turn up and how you play against them; we don’t have any conclusions to make on where they are in the table; all we know is that we will expect them to be at their best.”

Munster Squad: W Du Preez, M Horan, M Sherry, S Henry, D Varley, J Hayes, D Hurley, T Buckley, B Holland, D Ryan, D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll, A Quinlan, D Wallace, N Ronan, D Leamy (captain), P O’Mahony, J Coughlan, T O’Leary, P Stringer, R O’Gara, S Deasy, P Warwick, D Barnes, L Mafi, J Murphy, S Tuitupou, D Howlett, D Hurley.

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