O’Callaghan gets two week ban as Munster prepare for sell-out Clermont tie

Colm Kinsella


Colm Kinsella

Munster's Paul O'Connell warms up using a kettle bell during squad training at UL this week ahead of Saturday's big European Champions Cip tie against Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park, 5.30pm
MUNSTER have confirmed that Saturday’s crunch European Champions Cup tie with Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park is a sell-out.

MUNSTER have confirmed that Saturday’s crunch European Champions Cup tie with Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park is a sell-out.

All 25,600 match tickets for the province’s biggest game of the season have now been snapped up. The meeting of Pool 1 table toppers Munster and French Top 14 high flyers Clermont in the first of two back-to-back fixtures has a 5.30pm kick-off time.

Munster head coach Anthony Foley is keeping his fingers crossed that Australian centre Andrew Smith will be fit to face Clermont as the province comes to terms with news that experienced second-row Donncha O’Callaghan is set to miss the Clermont games due to suspension.

O’Callaghan was handed a two-week ban after a disciplinary committee upheld a citing complaint that he allegedly kicked an Ulster player in the second half of Friday night’s PRO12 game.

Munster are hopeful centre Andrew Smith will have recovered from a knee injury in time to be fit for this weekend’s game. With some doubts over Smith’s participation this weekend, Munster have opted to register recently arrived South African centre Pat Howard IN their squad for the Champions Cup in place of Johnny Holland who has sustained a hamstring injury. Howard did suffer a concussion following a collision with JJ Hanrahan during the course of Friday night’s win over Ulster. However, Munster are confident he will be available to play after following return to play protocols.

Anthony Foley said: “Andrew (Smith) is improving. The swelling has gone down in his knee. He is a bit more confident but I need to see him train and run before I am confident. That will be Thursday before we sit down and have a look at that and see if he can train then.

“Pat Howard banged heads with JJ (Hanrahan) on Friday. He was running today, took part in what he was allowed to take part in. He looks okay. We have added him as the wild card (to the Champions Cup squad) instead of Johnny Holland, I think it was prudent. Hopefully Andrew will come through.

“If he doesn’t, we have Johne Murphy who can play 13, Pat Howard can play there, we have a couple of looks at him and Ivan Dineen can play there.”

Munster are also sweating on the fitness of back-row Robin Copeland, who picked up a knee injury against Ulster. Copeland didn’t take part in Munster’s field training session at UL yesterday.