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Horses for Courses
10 October 2004, 3:08 pm
Three changes on the Munster side for Sunday's game against Ospreys and the significance of this selection will not have been lost on anyone.
Three changes on the Munster side for Sunday's game against Ospreys and the significance of this selection will not have been lost on anyone.

With all due respects to Mossy Lawlor and Trevor Hogan the decision to replace them was probably the easiest of the three changes made from the Harlequins match. With Shaun Payne recovered from the knock he took against Cardiff it was a gimme that he would return to the side.

Given that Payne's best performances of late were in the number 13 jersey it just remained for Gaffney to decide between Lawlor and John Kelly for the wing position. Again, form won the day and Kelly was selected to win his 51st Heineken Cup match.

Trevor Hogan has performed heroically since called into the side as a late replacement for Donncha O'Callghan for the game against Llanelli on October 3rd, but like Payne, once injury free, O'Callaghan had to warrant a recall. What the the past number of games have shown however is that in Hogan Munster have developed a top class second row performer.

It was the back-row area that would have necessitated the longest discussion for Gaffney, Brian Hickey and Jerry Holland. Five top class back-rowers, three places up for grabs. Anthony Foley might have had his name pencilled in almost straight away.

His performance last week alone would have ensured that, but that aside, he is such a clever footballer, a good, an inspirational leader. As far as performances go Williams wasn't far behind his captain and the veteran of the side seems to, unblievably, improve his performance with every game.

So in the end it probably really came down to three into one, with Denis Leamy, David Wallace and Alan Quinlan vying for the number 7 jersey. Once again Leamy has been a revelation in that position all season, his form earning him a call up to the national squad. But Gaffney spoke of horses for courses and picking players not necessarily on form but with particular games/opposition in mind.

To that end, and perhaps with lineout options aplenty, he has gone for the ball carrying hard yard attributes of David Wallace with Quinlan on the bench. It's a tough call for a coach. It's a brave call, but it seems the right call. It's also a call that reflects the coaches ambition for his players.

Leamy has made the national squad and it is every provincial coaches obligation to produce players for the next level (ie interntional). Now David Wallace gets the opportunity to catch Eddie O'Sullivan's eye as will Alan Quinlan should the opportunity arise.

If they take their opportunity, they will have been well served by their coach and Munster will prosper in the toughest of theatres.

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