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Gaffney delays Team Announcement
12 December 2003, 8:41 am
Munster coach Alan Gaffney will wait until later in the week before announcing the side to play Connacht in the Celtic League game in Dubarry Park (Athlone) on Friday.
Munster coach Alan Gaffney will wait until later in the week before announcing the side to play Connacht in the Celtic League game in Dubarry Park (Athlone) on Friday.

Gaffney conducted his preparation for the game without 12 of his possible starting XV, who have been called up to Dublin for a national squad get-together.

Of the side that started against Benetton Treviso only three, backs Shaun Payne and Mike Mullins and flanker Jim Williams, have been available to Munster this week for training, hardly the ideal situation for a game that could effectively decide Munster's fate in the Celtic League.

At the moment Munster on 21 points trail Connacht by two and are 11 points behind leaders Ulster. With away games to come in Ravenhill, and in Stradey Park against second placed Llanelli Scarlets a loss on Friday could see Munster's hopes of retaining their title disappear.

Gaffney makes no secret of his annoyance with the scheduling of the national assembly and his frustration is understandable given the importance of the fixture not only in the Celtic League context but also with the Heineken Cup game in Kingsholm just over a week away.

However appeals by the Munster reps to IRFU fell on deaf ears and Gaffney like his compatriot in Leinster simply has to get on with it.

Good news for the Munster coach is that John Hayes, injured in the game against Treviso should be available and Anthony Horgan who was forced to pull out of that game is also likely to be in consideration for a place in the starting line up.

Hayes will probably slot into the front row alongside Marcus Horan and Frank Sheehan but the return of Horgan means that Shaun Payne or Jeremy Staunton may have to make way to accomodate the international wing in a reshuffled backline.

In Connacht, coach Michael Bradley will also hold off on naming his team as he waits on fitness reports of key players, lock Andrew Farley and full-back Mark McHugh, who are recovering from operations and it remains to be seen if they are fit to play.

Farley missed the games against Beziers in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup following groin surgery, while McHugh underwent a foot operation.

Prop Warren O'Kelly is also recovering from injury while another prop, Peter Bracken, could make his first appearance for Connacht this season after successfully recovering from cruciate knee surgery.

"We need to wait and see how these players fair out over the next couple of days. Also, hooker Bernard Jackman is away training with the Irish squad and we need to get a status report on him", said coach Michael Bradley.

"We did very well against Beziers and hope to build on that against Munster. It promises to be a great occasion and we are hopeful of a big crowd in Dubarry Park on Friday evening."

Munster coach Alan Gaffney will name a squad for the Connacht game on Wednesday and will probably wait until Thursday evening before deciding on his starting XV.

Munster v Connacht Celtic League Dubarry Park, Athlone Friday, January 2nd at 7 pm.

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