Munster front row crisis deepens as key clashes loom large

Munster could be without their frontline second row for Saturday’s RaboDirect Pro12 top of the table derby clash with Leinster after Donnacha Ryan joined captain Paul O’Connell on the list of injury doubts for the Thomond Park showdown.

Munster came away from Galway following their narrow 20-16 league victory over Connacht on Saturday night with no fresh injury concerns ahead of the visit of the current table toppers and European champions but the shoulder injury Ryan received against Scotland is still giving the lock trouble and director of coaching Tony McGahan said both he and O’Connell were doubtful starters this weekend.

With a Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster to follow the Leinster clash eight days later, the European tie was O’Connell’s primary objective following the medial cruciate ligament damage he suffered in his left knee against France on March 4.

The loss of both O’Connell and Ryan, Munster’s starting Heineken Cup lock partnership this season, would be a blow with McGahan hoping to re-integrate his Six Nations contingent and send out a team against Leinster “pretty close” to the one which he wants to send in against Ulster.

“Paul, doubtful,” the outoging coach said on Saturday at the Sportsgrounds of O’Connell’s chances of facing Leinster. “We don’t have a glut of Irish internationals so our main concern is just the injuries. Donnacha Ryan’s got a sore shoulder too, so he’s possibly a doubt as well.”

Scrum-half Conor Murray is on course to make his comeback Saturday from the bone bruising in his knee he suffered against France and while David Wallace played only 40 minutes against Connacht in his first start of season following the August knee injury that cost him a World Cup place, McGahan said the flanker’s half-time withdrawal had been a planned substitution.

Today will also see the return of Anthony Foley to his forwards coach role having been given time off following his secondment to the Ireland set-up during the Six Nations for Gert Smal. And McGahan is looking forward to the build-up to the Leinster clash, the second of three inter-provincial games which climax with the Heineken Cup quarter against Ulster on Easter Sunday.

How much of a part Lifeimi Mafi will play may be out of Munster’s control, however, with the Perpignan-bound centre expected to come under the scrutiny of Saturday’s citing commissioner following a no-arms tackle on Connacht replacement Dave McSharry.


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