MUNSTER will look to avoid losing fours games in a row for the first time in five seasons when Anthony Foley’s side host arch rivals Leinster in a crunch Guinness PRO12 tie at Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day, 5pm.
Munster slipped to third place in the PRO12 table on the back of Saturday’s defeat to Glasgow which came in the wake of back-to-back European Champions Cup defeats to Clermont Auvergne.
Both Munster and fourth-placed Leinster will be without the services of several ‘first choice’ players for the December 26 game due to the IRFU player management programme which limits the amount of successive weeks players can play games. As a result of a busy playing schedule in recent weeks, the likes of Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo may not start the December 26 game against Leinster. O’Mahony took a bang on the knee against Glasgow on Saturday, but his head coach reports him to be fine. With several internationals likely to be absent, players such as Ronan O’Mahony. Duncan Williams and Donncha O’Callaghan are in line to see gametime against Matt O’Connor’s Leinster side. Exciting UL-Bohs back-row forward Jack O’Donoghue could also well be involved in the match day squad.
Munster head coach Anthony Foley said he expected a number of players who were at the Irish international camp at Carton House this week to be available to play on St Stephen’s Day.
“We’ll get some (Irish internationals) back, we’ll see how fellas have reacted after the weekend. Obviously they went up on Sunday, I have spoken to a few of them there and they are in fine form. It is just about getting them back down and see where they are tomorrow (Tuesday).
“There might be one or two (Irish internationals) ruled out. We just need to check on the injuries.”
Munster’s Australian Andrew Smith has been ruled out of action for the next four to six weeks due to a knee problem.
Smith had surgery on his left knee last week after injuring himself in the home defeat to Clermont.
Meanwhile, Munster head coach Foley said contract talks between Munster and JJ Hanrahan are continuing. Hanrahan had been linked with a move to Northampton Saints earlier in the month.
Foley said Munster were in the market to sign a new loosehead prop, following injuries to the likes of Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin which will keep the pair sidelined for several weeks.
Yeah, we’re looking but you’ve to find a loosehead with a European passport that will be released from a club. We’re consistently looking. Eusebio (Guinazu) came on for the last scrum and I thought if we remained a small bit more patient, we could have forced the referee into making a decision but we didn’t. It shows that he’s well capable of scrummaging as a loosehead.
“We’re in a precarious situation there because we do want to try and get a loosehead that can come in and add value that’s better than what we have but with the hookers out and the two looseheads out, we don’t want to over expose Eusebio and lose him as well.”
Foley said Munster are in discussions with Argentine Guinazu over the possibility of extending his contract with the province.
Munster will be attempting to achieve a season’s double over Leinster in the PRO12 for the first time since 2008/09 when they face the League leaders at Thomond Park on Friday.