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Irish stars to join Magners mission early

IRELAND'S top international players will be available to play for their provinces in the first two rounds of the Magners League which kicks off next week.

Last season, under the Player Management Scheme, Ireland front-liners such as Ronan O'Gara and Jamie Heaslip did not play until round four of the Celtic competition at the end of September. However, the Ireland management say that, while the approach is different, the objective of having their top players play between 26 and 32 games a season remains the same. "The big difference this year is that most of the international players will be available to play in Magners League (week) One and then there are seven or eight other internationals who will start Magners League Two," said Ireland manager Paul McNaughton.

"The programme is very similar to last year, making sure the players who are playing the most football, which is the international players, have rest periods.

"The approach is different but the objective is the same: we want players in good shape at the end of the season."

The doctor involved in English rugby's fake blood scandal admitted yesterday that she cut the lip of Harlequins winger Tom Williams after he pretended to be injured in a Heineken Cup match last year. Williams had bitten on a capsule of fake blood to force a late blood replacement substitution.

His departure allowed specialist goalkicker Nick Evans to take the field in his place to try to kick a winning drop goal.

The player told a disciplinary hearing that he had become 'extremely panicked' and twice asked club doctor Wendy Chapman to cut him after officials questioned his apparent injury.

Mary O'Rourke, representing Dr Chapman, said she had made the incision with a stitch cutter.

Ospreys wing Tommy Bowe has been named player of the season at the Magners League Awards for his efforts in helping the Welsh side win the 2009/10 title. Ireland star Bowe, 26, said: "This is a great honour, especially as the votes have come from players in the Magners League."