O'Driscoll ruled out for up to 12 weeks


RUGBY:IRELAND CAPTAIN Brian O’Driscoll and hooker Rory Best have been ruled out of the Guinness November Test series matches against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina following injuries sustained last weekend while playing for their respective provinces.

O’Driscoll, who had been conspicuously excellent in the 22 minutes he was on the pitch for the game against the Cardiff Blues at the RDS, suffered ankle ligament damage in a tackle. It forced him to retire and the initial prognosis was that he might have sustained a sprain to the joint.

The diagnosis has proved considerably worse as the 33-year-old will require surgery to repair the damaged ligaments and faces an eight to 12 week enforced playing sabbatical. Not only will he miss the Irish matches but Leinster’s pivotal back-to-back games against Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup.

Although known to be a quick healer, if he was to be sidelined for three months he would also miss the province’s final two pool matches in January against the Scarlets and the Exeter Chiefs.

Ireland’s opening match in the 2013 Six Nations Championship is against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, February 2nd.

O’Driscoll defied medical expectation after undergoing neck/shoulder surgery in November last year. He was expected to be out for six months but returned for Leinster on March 23rd in a RaboDirect Pro12 game against the Ospreys, having missed the 2012 Six Nations and all six of Leinster’s pool matches in Europe last season.

He underwent a surgical trim on knee cartilage ahead of that final against Ulster having twisted his knee in training the previous week. He enjoyed a full pre-season for the province after playing in Ireland’s three Tests against New Zealand on the summer tour.

Despite being forced off against Munster with a knock on the ankle last month, he returned to play in Leinster’s opening two Heineken Cup pool matches against the Exeter Chiefs and the Scarlets before playing his 16th game for country and province combined since last March against the Blues.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney expressed his disappointment for O’Driscoll and Best at an opening training session in Donnybrook yesterday but said it offered an opportunity for others to step in.

He confirmed that there were no plans to introduce more players to the squad. O’Driscoll’s absence means Keith Earls, who is recovering from a groin problem, Fergus McFadden, Darren Cave and possibly Tommy Bowe will be considered for selection in the number 13 jersey against South Africa on Saturday week.

Best, another player in superb form, sprained neck ligaments in Ulster’s away victory against the Dragons last weekend. The hooker, who captained Ireland against Scotland in last season’s Six Nations, in the absence of O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell, will be sidelined for about four to six weeks before there will be a further assessment of the injury.

He could miss Ulster’s crucial European games against the Northampton Saints in December. It now seems certain that the newly Irish qualified Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss will make his debut for his adoptive country against the Springboks, coming face to face with his cousin Adriaan Strauss.

Leinster prop Cian Healy is expected to return to training later in the week following the shoulder injury that forced him to retire during the Cardiff match.

Munster have confirmed the arrival of South Africa backrow CJ Stander from the Blue Bulls but also the departure of New Zealander Troy Smith; the latter plagued by injury during his time with the Irish province.

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