Reds’ Ronan to discover injury fate

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan was able to breathe easily despite having to conduct a full-on training session at the University of Limerick with Paul O’Connell looking on from the sidelines.

However, there was no cause for panic as the skipper was obeying on medical advice to give a gashed knee time to heal and there is no doubt about his availability for Saturday’s Heineken Cup Pool 1 crunch game against Northampton Saints.

Not so clear, however, is the situation relating to Niall Ronan, whose immediate future will be decided following a visit to a specialist today. His cruciate ligament injury, sustained in last Saturday’s win over Castres, is causing serious concern, not least because it leaves Munster without a recognised open side flanker for this week and possibly well beyond.

McGahan said: “All of us down here are deeply saddened for Niall for he has played exceptionally well for us and has been making his mark in the Heineken Cup.

“He has been the standard-bearer at the breakdown and going into round six, and have him taken away, and maybe for some more time down the track, we will miss him.”

So, Munster’s cruel run of luck continues and McGahan has 11 of his top players in rehabilitation right now. However, rather than dwell on the difficulties, he remains positive. He said: “We just have to get on with it, that’s the nature of it. I think we have done that exceptionally well this year. We have had a long injury list.

“But no one is going to listen to me whinge about it or have an excuse. The great thing down here is that whatever happens you just get on with it. Each player who has come in has stepped up to the mark and make their own point when the opportunity presented and whoever comes in this weekend will do that as well, I’m sure.

“We have three recognised sevens in the squad out for this weekend but there is a lot of flexibility across the back rows these days. We have been backing a lot of our young guys for some time now and they are getting their time; they are hungry and whoever comes in will do their best this weekend and get the job done.”

Recognising the challenge is, believes the coach, half the battle.

He insisted: “We know ourselves we have to be 100% committed to the task and focused on the process of getting to these outcomes. For us, this week is just about us. That approach will, he hopes, be enough to secure the result needed to secure a home quarter-final which, he said, was “probably vital.”

“I don’t know the exact stats but I think there is an exceptionally high percentage of home sides going through. Nevertheless Munster have won a couple of quarter-finals away from home and progressed through there as well.

“We recognise the benefits of a home game though, not only to our supporters but commercially and to the club and to the city as well. We understand those, we’ve had two quarter-finals in the last three years. We know the benefit and the buzz it gives and the familiarity of preparing in your own home town, getting all those things.

“That is certainly on the table for us this weekend. This season, our primary goal was to get to the quarter-finals; we will see how we go from there.”

MUNSTER SQUAD: M Horan, W du Preez, J Ryan, S Archer, BJ Botha, D Varley, D Fogarty, D Ryan, P O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, I Nagle, M O’Driscoll, P O’Mahony, J Coughlan, B Holland, Dave O’Callaghan, C Murray, T O’Leary, D Williams, R O’Gara, I Keatley, D Barnes, S Zebo, W Chambers, L Mafi, K Earls, J Murphy, D Hurley.

Not Available (expected return date in brackets): N Ronan (no date), D Leamy (no date), M Sherry (back training), D Wallace (back training March), T Smith (February), F Jones (February), D Howlett (next season), D Hurley (April), T O’Connell (February), T Gleeson (March), J Flannery (no date).

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