ALL of Munster’s eight British and Irish Lions stars are likely to be pressed into service as the Heineken Cup champions bid to edge closer to the Magners League crown at Musgrave Park tomorrow night (7.35pm).
A week ahead of the mouthwatering European Cup semi-clash with Leinster, Tony McGahan looks set to start many of his marquee names against Llanelli Scarlets.
Paul O’Connell will captain a side that is likely to include Lions wild card selection Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary, Jerry Flannery, Donncha O’Callaghan, Alan Quinlan and David Wallace from the start.
Munster enjoy an 11-point advantage at the top of the Magners League from Ospreys, and victory in this third last game would be a huge boost to their chances of dethroning Leinster.
Meanwhile Martyn Williams has warned Wallace to expect a dogfight for the Lions number seven jersey.
Williams claims Ireland Grand Slam hero Wallace is in ‘pole position’ for the openside flanker spot following an incredible season. But the Wales star insists he will fight the Munster hardman all the way for a Test place in South Africa next month.
Williams said: “David is in pole position for the Test team because he has been awesome this season. There is fierce competition for the seven spot including Joe Worsley. But David deserves that recognition along with the other Irish players because of their Grand Slam success.
“But what has gone on before will be put to one side when the early games start — it will become irrelevant.
“I was the favourite for a starting Test spot four years ago. There will be four or five certainties but it is wide open for the rest of the players to fight for a spot in the team.
“The team that will be selected for the first Test will be those players who impress in the opening games.”
The 33-year-old toured Australia in 2001 and New Zealand four years later but had to wait until the final match of the humiliating whitewash tour to make his Lions Test debut. Williams, one of six Cardiff Blues stars, admits he will be able to rest until he has been part of a winning Lions side.
Williams said: “It was a great relief to be selected and feels just as special as eight years ago. I’m so glad to be on the tour but the aim is to win the series. We will only have a couple of weeks before the Test series starts — we’ll have to gel quickly.
“Only four successful Lions teams have won in South Africa so to be part of a winning tour would be special.”
Ryan Jones was the biggest shock omission in Ian McGeechan’s 37-man squad to face the world champions.
But Williams has backed the Wales skipper to bounce back from his snub.
Williams said: “We’ve got 13 Welsh lads going on the tour but the news was tinged with sadness.
“I really felt for Ryan because he is a good friend but sadly not everyone can go. The back row is the most competitive position on the tour and good players like Ryan, Tom Croft and Denis Leamy have all missed out.
“But Ryan is experienced enough to bounce back. He did the same in 2005. He’ll be fine.”
MUNSTER (from): D Hurley, B Murphy, K Lewis, P Warwick, D Howlett, K Earls, L Mafi, I Dowling, R O’Gara, P Stringer, T O’Leary, M Horan, J Flannery, D Fogarty, J Hayes, T Buckley, F Pucciarello, P O’Connell, D O Callaghan, D Ryan, M O’Driscoll, A Quinlan, D Wallace, D Leamy, N. Ronan
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