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Munster Players Shine at Lansdowne
8 August 2003, 3:16 pm
The countdown to Rugby World Cup selection began in earnest on Saturday when Ireland played the first of the three Tests at the end of which Eddie O Sullivan will announce his 30-strong squad
The countdown to Rugby World Cup selection began in earnest on Saturday when Ireland played the first of the three Tests at the end of which Eddie O Sullivan will announce his 30-strong squad for Australia.

From a Munster perspective Saturday s game further strengthened the claims of players like David Wallace Alan Quinlan, Donncha O Callaghan and Anthony Horgan, who must now have moved into pole position for selection. Of those who played on Saturday, Peter Stringer, Paul O Connell and Anthony Foley will already be having their RWC gear measured but the others are facing stiff competition for the few remaining places up for grabs and each will have done their chances a power of good.

Anthony Horgan, winning his second cap and showed a good work rate and was unlucky not to mark his Lansdowne Road debut with a try. It would have good to see him get more clean ball but he did enough to warrant a further look and he remains in contention for the trip down under. Although Keith Gleeson went into this game as the man in possession he was completely overshadowed by David Wallace even though the Garryowen man had only about 30 minutes of test rugby under his belt in over a year.

Right from the second half kick off, when he had replaced the injured Anthony Foley, Wallace heralded his return to the big time with a classy 40 metre run. And when he was hauled down metres from the Welsh line, he extracted himself from the ruck and came in support of the play to take an inside pass from Munster colleague Horgan to score Ireland s third try. Class.

Alan Quinlan came into the side late as a replacement for injured Victor Costello and added to O Sullivan s growing dilemma over the composition of his World Cup back-row while firmly nominating himself for inclusion. His work-rate was immense, defending tigerishly while his support play was rewarded with a well taken try.

His difficulty is that the wing-forward area is one where Ireland are particularly strong. At the moment Simon Easterby, Gleeson, Victor Costello, Eric Miller, Wallace and himself make it six vying for four places. Easterby is sure to go. Costello s number 8 experience makes him a probability. Gleeson too looks assured of a place. That leaves Wallace Miller and Quinny battling for the final place. However after Saturday s game, Wallace has moved ahead of Gleeson and at the same time showed what he can do from the number 8 position. That augers badly for Costello and is good news for Quinlan because that could make it a straight call between himself and Miller.

And with Miller s injury record the man from the Junction looks the better bet. And so to the lock position and what looks like a fairly straight choice between Donncha O Callaghan and Leinster s Leo Cullen to join O Connell, Gary Longwell and Malcolm O Kelly. Even allowing for provincial bias you would find it difficult to locate a Munster man here or abroad who would prefer Cullen in the Red engine-room ahead of O Callaghan.

In fact if you asked any shrewd Leinster supporter which player they d prefer in the Lions den, they d opt for O Callaghan. For the short period he was on the pitch against the Welsh (and why O Sullivan waited until the 68th minute to spring him is a mystery) the boy/man who destroyed Martin Johnson in Welford Road (and indeed Longwell in Thomond Park) did enough to be humming Waltzing Matilda come early September when the squad is announced.

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