Munster and Donnacha O'Callaghan are considering their right to appeal the decision by a Pro12 appointed disciplinary committee to suspend Munster's most capped player for two weeks after finding him guilty of foul play for the first time in his career. The province's management are believed to be furious with the decision and the player deeply upset, having never been cited in 17 seasons as a professional.
O’Callaghan travelled to Glasgow on Tuesday with Munster manager Niall O’Donovan for a hearing after being cited for allegedly kicking Stuart Olding early in the second half of last Friday’s 21-20 win at home to Ulster.
According to a Pro12 statement, the disciplinary committee, chaired by Prof Lorne Crerar, along with Roddy Dunlop and Iain Goodall (all Scotland), determined that “the player’s actions had been reckless, that the primary contact with the opponent had been on his shoulder and chest area, and that in terms of seriousness the player’s actions were at the lower end of World Rugby’s sanctions for foul play, which carries a 4 week entry-point suspension.”
In light of O’Callaghan’s unblemished career and conduct, they suspended him for two weeks up to and including Sunday, December 14th.
In truth, O'Callaghan might not have been involved anyway for this Saturday's first of back-to-back meetings with Clermont Auvergne in a Thomond Park sell-out (kick-off 5.30) as Billy Holland had been preferred for their previous two European Champions Cup outings.
Munster have registered their short-term signing, 22-year-old South African centre Pat Howard as a medical joker, and de-registered Johnny Holland, who tore his hamstring in the A team's 23-16 home win over Nottingham last Saturday. This is in light of the knee injury which their 29-year-old Australian Andrew Smith sustained against Ulster.
Ironically, Smith had been a 28th minute replacement for Howard after the latter’s debut had been prematurely ended after a clash of heads with JJ Hanrahan, but whereas Howard resumed training and will be fit to play, Munster will wait until Thursday to see if the swelling on Smith’s knee has abated sufficiently. If not, then Howard or Johne Murphy will partner Denis Hurley in midfield.
"I think it was prudent," said Anthony Foley of adding Howard as a medical joker. "There is no point in having him there, looking at him, and we are not going to find out about him [Smith] until Thursday. We had to have it done by today noon hopefully it doesn't came back on us and backfire."
Robin Copeland suffered "a slight tear" in a tendon above his knee/lower hamstring which, if it ruled him out, would most likely see Paddy Butler promoted to the bench.
James Cronin resumed training this week after recovering from the ankle injury which prevented him from joining up with the Irish squad so will probably be back-up to David Kilcoyne, one of four Munster players to sign new contracts.
One of the others, Stephen Archer, may return ahead of BJ Botha given the rotation policy there, while the form and potent running of winger Gerhard van der Heever in recent games sees him vying with Andrew Conway for a starting role.
Munster will welcome back their expanding Irish contingent while similarly Clermont rested a quartet of French internationals, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly, Camille Lopez and Wesley Fofana for Saturday’s 27-19 defeat to Toulon in Nice which enabled the latter to edge them off the top of the Top 14 by one point.
“Where do you stop; where do you start?” said Foley after reeling off some of Clermont’s stellar names. “They have a lot of quality there and it is something we are very much aware of, and that is our life in Europe. We have to look at them, respect them which we will, and play to the best of our ability which we will, and show them maximum respect. We’re all looking forward to it. You can feel it around the squad that there is a big weekend involved for Munster rugby.”