Heenan the major injury concern for Connacht in advance of Leinster clash

Both sides expected to name their strongest line-ups

Jake Heenan: battling a shoulder injury prior to the clash with Leinster at the Sportsground. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jake Heenan: battling a shoulder injury prior to the clash with Leinster at the Sportsground. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Fri, Jan 3, 2014, 01:00


Connacht flanker Jake Heenan is the major injury worry ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Leinster at the Sportsground. “We are still hopeful on a few guys like Jake and Gav (Duffy),” said Connacht coach Pat Lam after training yesterday.

Lam has overseen defeats to Toulouse and Munster following their historic victory over the former.

Duffy and Heenan are suffering from shoulder injuries and while neither are not of a serious nature (unlike Seán O’Brien’s which necessitated surgery this week) both have a better chance of returning for the round five Heineken Cup tie against Zebre tomorrow week. Scrumhalf Frank Murphy (concussion) will miss out.

Restrictions lifted
With national restrictions lifted, Leinster and Connacht are expected to name their strongest possible line-ups this afternoon. That should see Rob Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Jamie Heaslip and Devin Toner returning to Matt O’Connor’s team.

In the corresponding fixture last season Connacht comprehensively beat the Pro 12 champions 34-6. Since then Leinster have beaten them twice in Dublin. Twenty-four points currently separates the sides who are second and 11thin the league respectively.

As well as O’Brien, Leinster will be without Cian Healy (ankle) while Michael Bent is a doubt. That means Jack McGrath will continue his upward trajectory at loosehead prop.

“It is one of the toughest places to go,” said McGrath. “It is a particular game that Connacht get up for. A lot of teams find it hard to go there and they have improved so much over the last few seasons.”

On the glut of former Leinster players plying their trade in Galway, McGrath added: “With the players that have left here and gone there they have a point to prove nearly to their old team-mates. Maybe get one over on them. The likes of Nathan White, I could be up against him, Paul O’Donohoe, Jason Harris-Wright.

“I was in the (Leinster) academy with Kyle Tonetti and Dave McSharry.”

The fixture will also see Galway native Andrew Browne become the seventh Connacht centurion as he joins an elite group of Michael Swift, John Muldoon, Brett Wilkinson, Ronan Loughney, Duffy and Murphy.

“It’s a huge, huge honour for me and something you dream of as a young, local lad,” said Browne. “It would be fantastic to win my 100th cap against Leinster at the weekend and to mark it with a win over the league champions.”