Leinster feel it's time they got on their bikes
RUGBY:LEINSTER HAVE been here before and bought the T-shirt. As the bulk suppliers to the Irish effort, they have again been the most discommoded by the absence of front-liners on later pre-seasons and by having the most players at last week’s Ireland two-day training camp, whereas Connacht were lurking in the long grass.
Once again therefore, September has not been especially kind to them and as with their first season under Joe Schmidt two years ago, the onset of their annual Aviva showdown with Munster finds them scratching for form and desperately hoping that the sight of those red shirts will prompt a timely pick-me-up in performance prior to the opening salvos of the Heineken Cup.
But what compounds their worrying lack of form is the scale of their early-season injury list. “I’m a pretty positive guy by nature and I suppose I’m the eternal optimist,” commented Schmidt before yesterday afternoon’s training session in UCD, in noticeably better form than in the aftermath of Friday’s 34-6 defeat in Galway.
Noting that two years ago they came off a bonus-point defeat (32-24) in Edinburgh with “a full team out and a full week’s preparation” Schmidt admitted being “hopeful” of a similar turnaround. “But I would have to say that our injury toll is such that it is pretty difficult for us at the moment.”
On top of leaking a further five tries at the weekend, a lengthy long-term casualty list containing Seán O’Brien, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan and Dave Kearney was compounded by three more injuries in Galway which has effectively ruled Rod Kearney, Gordon D’Arcy and Quinn Roux out of Saturday’s showdown with Munster.
Kearney sustained “quite a bad haematoma just there (pointing to his lower back), with that bad blood being a real irritant and hopefully as that drains away he should come right quite quickly. He won’t be available for Munster but maybe beyond that we’d cross our fingers.”
Similarly, according to Schmidt, they are inclined to “cut our losses” with D’Arcy and afford him “a little time off” all the more so given the bruised ribs which forced him off in the first half of the scratchy win at home to Edinburgh two weeks ago was confirmed to be a “rib cartilage”.
Furthermore Roux “received a decent jolt and compression to his clavicle (collarbone), so he’s going to be out maybe for a couple of weeks.”
Offsetting this is the expectation that Eoin Reddan will return to training today, with Isaac Boss and Leo Cullen likely to be back in contention for their Heineken Cup opener at home to Exeter on Saturday week.
In the meantime, Schmidt has told those that are standing, which is liable to be buttressed by the return of Brian O’Driscoll, Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Heaslip and Kevin McLaughlin, as well as playing Cian Healy and Mike Ross from the start, that “they have a real responsibility to some of the guys who would love to be in their boots that are unable to play at the moment. And they are desperately keen to have something to play for when they get back.”