Paul O'Connell, the Munster captain, has been ruled out of Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final against Biarritz with a groin injury. O'Connell has not played since the final match of Ireland's Six Nations campaign against Scotland last month. The 30-year-old second row saw a specialist, but has still been forced to concede defeat in his race to be fit for the trip to San Sebastian. Tony McGahan, the Munster coach, said: "Paul hasn't played for us since January so it's a fair block of time since he's trained with us or been anywhere near the training pitch.
"It's been a long saga since the Six Nations. We tried a number of remedies and recommendations but at this stage he was too far gone. "For this particular week he's just not ready. To be out for that length of time he needs to have trained and next week's game is on a Sunday so that means he won't train again until next Wednesday." It is not all bad news though for the Irish team as Keith Earls has recovered from his groin problem while Doug Howlett, Ian Dowling and Nick Williams have also been passed fit.
Meanwhile in Super 14 news, the Brumbies have suffered a double blow ahead of their must-win clash against the Reds tomorrow after Stirling Mortlock and Julian Huxley were both ruled out with back injuries. While Huxley was always in doubt for the clash after leaving the field in the first half against the Waratahs, Mortlock was widely tipped to return from a lengthy lay-off for the Reds clash but will be given another week to prove his fitness.
The pair's absence makes way for sevens specialist Brackin Karauria-Henry to earn his full cap on the wing after making his Super rugby debut off the bench last weekend. Andy Friend, the Brumbies coach, said: "We said from the outset that one of the strengths of this side was its depth and that's certainly been tested this season." Today's Super 14 action sees the Highlanders face the Waratahs and the Stormers take on the Crusaders.
* PA Sport