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Page last updated at 13:27 GMT, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Lee Byrne to boost Ospreys Heineken Cup hopes

Lee Byrne
Lee Byrne is a British and Irish Lions full-back and has won 38 Wales caps

The Ospreys expect Lee Byrne to boost their Heineken Cup bid and return from his fractured thumb in their Pool Three showdown with London Irish.

The Wales full-back suffered the injury in Wales' November Test defeat by New Zealand almost six weeks ago and will have the plaster removed this week.

"Lee is looking good. He trained yesterday [Tuesday]," said Ospreys coach Sean Holley.

"Our medical department tell me he is available for selection."

The Ospreys visit London Irish before hosting Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon the following week in two season-defining matches.

Scott Johnson's team are third in Pool Three behind leaders Toulon and two-time Heineken Cup winners Munster as they bid to reach their fourth successive European quarter-final.

Williams was initially expected to miss the start of the Six Nations after surgery on a dislocated shoulder, suffered in Wales' November defeat to South Africa, was to keep him out for 12 weeks.

But the Ospreys revealed last month that they thought Wales' record try-scorer may return for their final Heineken Cup pool match with French side Toulon.

Now, however, Ospreys coach Johnson has revealed he does not expect Williams to feature for the Ospreys in Europe's group stages - and that would rob him of crucial game-time to build match-fitness ahead of Wales' Six Nations opener with England on 4 February.

Thomas confident on line-out battle

"Fortunately for Wales he'll be right for the Six Nations but unfortunately for us he won't get much European action," said Johnson.

"The Toulon game is a possibly not a probability - but if anyone can do it is Shane.

"But I think Wales need him to have a run or two out beforehand as it took him a little while to get him back into form when he came back in before.

"It would be good for all if he was available."

But Byrne's expected return will boost the Welsh region in two huge fixtures.

"He is eager to be back playing as soon as possible," said physio Chris Towers.

And his impending return is also good news for Wales coach Warren Gatland ahead of his England's visit to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on 4 February.

The British and Irish Lions star was ruled out for five weeks and missed their European double-header with Irish giants Munster and the entire festive league schedule for the Ospreys.

The 30-year-old was publically criticised by his region when the injury was revealed as Byrne missed medical appointments so it took longer than expected for his injury to be diagnosed.

Byrne had only just returned from a broken hand - sustained in Ospreys' defeat at Glasgow on 24 October - when he suffered his latest fracture against the All Blacks on 27 November, 2010.

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see also
London Irish 24-12 Ospreys
16 Jan 11 |  Rugby Union
Williams recovery boost for Wales
12 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Leinster 15-10 Ospreys
07 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Henson links up with Wales squad
04 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Ospreys suffer Byrne injury blow
08 Dec 10 |  Ospreys
North blow for Wales and Scarlets
07 Dec 10 |  Welsh
Byrne signs new Ospreys contract
27 Feb 08 |  Ospreys
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Heineken Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
RaboDirect Pro12
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Anglo-Welsh Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union

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