Leinster coach Alan Gaffney will be hoping that Gordon D’Arcy and Shane Horgan, who both missed Ireland’s recent international against Wales in Cardiff, will be fit to resume. D’Arcy, Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll and Denis Hickie are all brilliant runners with the ball and if they get a good supply should run up the winning scores against Leicester.
This will be Munster’s first ever Heineken Cup game in Spain. Biarritz, anxious to accommodate the huge Munster following, scheduled the fixture over the border at the ground of soccer club Real Sociedad. Biarritz are encouraging Munster fans to stay in French hotels and they will then bus the fans to and from the game. They will also provide big screens in public areas or pubs so that Munster fans can watch the Leinster game on the Saturday. Full-back Christian Cullen is injured, but Munster got a reprieve last week when second-row Paul O’Connell escaped with a two-week ban after being cited for dangerous play against Wales. O’Connell’s ban ends at midnight on Saturday, just in time to line out against Biarritz. You can never write off Munster, but some of their squad are getting near their sell-by date and I don’t fancy them to make the semifinals. It promises to be a novel weekend for the Munster supporters, nonetheless, staying in France and crossing the Spanish border for a rugby game. I know of a few Kerrymen who are looking forward to their first-ever visit to the Franco/Spanish zone.
Meanwhile out-half Ronan O’Gara is definitely out of for the against Biarritz in Spain. O’Gara, who missed Munster’s last two games in the competition with a hand injury, suffered a knee-ligament strain in the Celtic League win over Gwent Dragons on Good Friday. He will be replaced once again by Paul Burke, a former Irish international.
Connacht will also in action this weekend. They play English club Sale in the first leg of their European Shield semifinal at the Sportsground in Galway on Saturday. It will be the last campaign for Connacht’s Eric Elwood, who says he is retiring at the end of the season. The 36-year-old, who also played soccer and Gaelic football in his native Galway, was the first Connacht man to play out-half for Ireland. He won 35 Irish caps.
Speaking of Six Nations, Ireland will be involved in the opening game of the 2006 campaign when we play Italy at Lansdowne Road on Feb. 4 next year. Our other Six Nations dates for 2006 are: Feb. 11 vs. France in Paris, Feb. 26 Wales in Dublin, March 11 vs. Scotland in Dublin and March 19 vs. England at Twickenham.
Cian O’Connor made the headlines for all the wrong reasons at the weekend, but it was a good weekend for Ireland’s top female showjumper, Jessica Kurten. Last week, the FEI revealed they had dropped the case against her mare Castle Forbes Libertina after the B sample had tested negative. Then on Sunday, she booked her ticket to the World Showjumping finals in Las Vegas next month with a second place in the last of the qualifying competitions in Goteborg, Sweden. Riding her 11-year-old mare Quibell, the County Antrim-born rider turned in two faultless rounds and was just a second behind class winner Robert Smith from Britain.
MAY BE JETS BOUND
There was speculation at the weekend that Cork Gaelic footballer Colin Corkery might be offered a kicking deal with the New York Jets. Corkery, who hasn’t played in the National League for Billy Morgan’s team this season, is an expert place kicker but has suffered with a weight problem in recent seasons. The 34-year-old, who plays for Nemo Rangers in Cork city, spent two years with Aussie Rules club Carlton in the early 1990s.
GAA CAN WIPE OUT
DEBT SOON – BOSS
Those who want to change GAA’s Rule 42 at Congress next month have said such as move would help with the organization’s huge debt. But this practical consideration may have been taken out of the equation with the publication last week of GAA Director General Liam Mulvihill annual report. In it, he said that the debt on Croke Park is now down to