Munster are sweating on the availability of experienced lock forward Donncha O’Callaghan for this weekend’s big European Cup clash with Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park.
O’Callaghan, who skippered Munster to victory over Ulster in the PRO12 on Friday night in the absence of international flanker Peter O’Mahony, was cited for allegedly ‘kicking an opponent in the head’ during the course of the one-point victory at Thomond Park.
The player’s hearing, before an independent disciplinary committee, is due to be held today, Tuesday.
O’Callaghan made his 147th appearance in the PRO12 last weekend and is only two appearances short of 100 in all European tournaments. He made his Euro debut in the Heineken Cup as a replacement against Perpignan in October 1998, and was hoping to become only the fifth player in history to play 100 games in the two European competitions.
Robin Copeland, Pat Howard and Andrew Smith all shifted knocks in the interprovincial clash with Ulster.
Howard was replaced after 28 minutes following a collision with fullback JJ Hanrahan. It was confirmed the centre sustained a concussion and is following return to play protocols.
Man-of-the-match Robin Copeland was replaced after falling awkwardly and underwent a scan on his knee on Monday, while centre Andrew Smith who finished the game, also sustained a knee injury and required a scan on Monday.
Munster will be looking to record a milestone 100 wins in top flight European club rugby competition this Saturday when the province hosts Clermont Auvergne in a crunch Champions Cup tie at Thomond Park, 5.30pm.
Munster lead Pool 1 of the inaugural European Champions Cup on eight points, two points clear of second-placed Clermont Auvergne who they face in the first of two back-to-back fixtures in Limerick this weekend.
Munster moved top of the Guinness PRO12 with their nail-biting 21-20 win over Neil Doak’s Ulster on Friday night.
Clermont lost their lead in the Top 14 at the weekend when they were beaten 27-19 at Stade Felix Mayol by European and French champions Toulon. They were 17-8 down at the break, fought back to lead 19-17 midway through the second half thanks to a try by Aurelien Rougerie, but were undone by a Dave Smith try in the end.
Clermont Auvergne are one of just four clubs in Champions Cup and Heineken Cup history to have a winning record over Munster, having won three of their five meetings to date. This fixture has been won by the home club on all four occasions, with Clermont also winning the 2013 semi-final meeting in Montpellier.
Munster head coach, Anthony Foley will welcome current internationals Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo back into the squad for Saturday’s game.
Foley says the province’s season cranks up a gear this weekend.
“I have said it already, this is a crucial two months for us. By the time we get to the end of January we will have a fair idea how the season could pan out.
“Next weekend we go at it again. It is about the mentality about understanding the importance of the next couple of games, head to head against one of the best sides in Europe. We got to have our heads in the right places. There is a lot of experience in there, around the squad in terms of Europe. Hopefully we can bring it through.”