Munster big guns ready for winter Blues

APART altogether from skipper Paul O’Connell, the Munster heavyweights are available for tomorrow’s Magners League clash with Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park (5pm).

Hopefully, O’Connell’s injury woes are behind him, and he is named in a 29-man squad that prepared this week for a game that has attracted huge attention, with advance sales of close to 20,000. But the big second row is just one of a number of players queuing up to reestablish themselves in a side that has done pretty well since the start of November, with victories over Ulster, Llanelli Scarlets and Australia being the highlights.

Denis Leamy is back from international duty alongside the likes of Tony Buckley, John Hayes, Mick O’Driscoll, Donncha O’Callaghan, David Wallace, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara and Keith Earls, and he is looking forward to having to fight for a place in the team.

“Yeah, the way things have gone, nobody feels as if they have a right to selection,” said Leamy yesterday. He said he was happy just to have been named in the squad!

With stadium officials confident the game will go ahead as planned, Leamy is looking forward to getting a slice of the action and he believes there will be plenty of that against a Welsh side that has made huge progress over the last couple of seasons.

“They play a similar type game to the Ospreys in that they will run from anywhere given the opportunity. These next three weeks are crucial to the outcome of our season,” Leamy said, pointing to follow-up back-to-back fixtures the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup.

But Leamy has no intention of looking beyond tomorrow.

“There are no easy games anymore; you come back from the internationals and it’s straight in against a team that has quality right through their team — it doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure.

“Right from one to 15 they (Cardiff) genuinely have some very good players and they’re a quality side that will provide us with a right tough match. It’s probably a game, however, in which we need to concentrate on ourselves as much as the opposition because there has been a lot of disruption the last few weeks, with international players away, other guys fitting in and taking their chances.

“We have to at least keep to that standard and probably add to it.”

Munster are a week away from a Heineken Cup double bill that will ultimately shape Munster’s season, but Leamy is well used to pressure-cooker stuff at this time of the year.

“It always seems to be like this come December; I suppose the only good thing this week is that we’re playing a Welsh team in the Magners League and there is possibly something in the fixture that we can use to prepare for the Ospreys matches because there is, no doubt, a similarity in the way Welsh teams play.

“They play an open style, an attacking style and playing Cardiff the week before taking on the Ospreys might not be a bad thing; the high tempo should certainly prepare us for what is about the come. These are three huge weekends for us coming up and we will know exactly where we are at the end of it; hopefully we will still be in the hunt for silverware.”

Munster (from): W du Preez, D Ryan, D Varley, M Sherry, T Buckley, P Borlase, J Hayes, M O’Driscoll, I Nagle, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell, A Quinlan, B Holland, N Ronan, D Wallace, D Leamy, P O’Mahony, P Stringer, T O’Leary, R O’Gara, P Warwick, D Hurley, S Tuitupou, K Earls, B Murphy, L Mafi, J Murphy, S Deasy, D Howlett.

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