Munster left a little bloodied by defeat as Leinster look in rude health
RUGBY:A week is a long time in sport, as the week just passed ably highlighted, and Munster and their supporters will be fervently hoping the same applies again this week in advance of a return to Heineken Cup action.
Compounding their alarmingly poor display in Saturday’s 17-6 Rabo Pro12 defeat to Cardiff at Musgrave Park, Munster have also been left sweating on injuries to Conor Murray, Mike Sherry and Stephen Archer.
Pending tests and a medical update today, the expectation is that all will be fit to play come next Sunday’s sleepy brunchtime slot at a cavernous Murrayfield, and Munster will thus be grateful for the small mercy of an eight-day turnaround.
Although he was the first to depart inside five minutes last Saturday night, Murray’s busted lip, which required several stitches, shouldn’t prevent him from training this week.
Of slightly more concern is Sherry, who tried to run off a strained ankle before going off early in the second quarter, and Archer, who was replaced after suffering what appeared to be a dead leg.
Munster will also welcome back the rested Simon Zebo, Peter O’Mahony, Donncha O’Callaghan, Damien Varley and Luke O’Dea, and having slipped from sixth to third in the league, their supporters will fervently hope that their team are reviving their old habit of having an off-day in the league before returning to European action. Small crumbs of comfort at the moment though.
By stark contrast, Leinster are suddenly approaching something resembling rude health for the first time this season after jumping from sixth to third in the Pro12 over the weekend.
Not alone did their trio of Irish backs, Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald, all come through belated returns to the team unscathed in Friday’s 31-16 bonus point win away to Edinburgh, the European champions are this morning also expected to confirm the return of Isa Nacewa (deep bone bruising in his arm) and Richardt Strauss (torn knee ligaments).
They have been sidelined since the defeat at Clermont over three weeks ago which seriously imperilled their prospects of reaching the knock-out stages of the tournament.
Furthermore, Dave Kearney and Eoin O’Malley are likely to come into the mix too, with Leinster also hosting Pontypridd in the British Irish Cup at Donnybrook next Saturday.
For their part the Scarlets yesterday confirmed that an X-ray and scan on George North’s neck showed that the winger suffered “no significant or serious damage” in the incident which led to him being stretchered off in Friday’s 47-17 defeat to Ulster at Ravenhill; their fifth loss in their last six games.
A Scarlets’ statement said it was “too early to assess the full extent of the injury or indeed the recovery period at this stage” but it is unlikely he will face Leinster at the RDS.
Ulster didn’t emerge from their 47-17 bonus point win over the Scarlets on Friday without their scars either.
In the continuing absence of Johann Muller, who is likely to miss both of their remaining pool games, fellow lock Dan Tuohy is a major doubt for Friday’s visit of Glasgow after suffering a recurrence of his groin strain.
Tuohy had a scan yesterday, while Mark Anscombe is also waiting on the results of scans today on Luke Marshall (finger), Nick Williams (bruised ribs) and Adam D’Arcy (ankle).
Furthermore, Jared Payne’s ongoing groin problem worsened last week, although Ulster will be keen to play their in-form Kiwi over the next two weeks given Payne can then be rested during the Six Nations window.
Next weekend’s pivotal round of Euro pool matches has a decidedly Celtic flavour, with the exception being Connacht’s comparatively daunting trip to the Stoop to face Harlequins, albeit after the timely fillip of their 30-11 win at home to the Dragons on Saturday.
Conor O’Shea’s reigning Premiership champions retained their leadership of the table with a bonus point, 31-26 win away to London Welsh yesterday.
Heineken Cup Round Five
Pool Four: Ulster v Glasgow, Ravenhill, 8.0pm.
Pool Three: Harlequins v Connacht, The Stoop, 1.35pm
Pool Five: Leinster v Scarlets, RDS, 6.0pm.
Pool One: Edinburgh v Munster, Murrayfield, 12.45pm.