Some good news for Schmidt in a bad news weekend
Joe Schmidt knows by now that it’s a numbers game, the coaching lark. At this point with Leinster, the concept of a full squad has fallen the way of theoretical physics, provable on paper but never really apparent in reality.
No sooner than someone is back training and fit, there’s another injury, the Six Nations Championship looms and his considerations for success in Leinster again involves inviting Irish coach Declan Kidney into the conversation.
This week has been coloured by the Heineken Cup, where more equations can explain how Leinster are still in the competition, but in reality it’s, well, just another complex theory. The good news comes with those returning and particularly Richardt Strauss, who Schmidt now hopes will be back in four weeks.
His hobbling exit from the match against Clermont looked more serious and although we have learned to step well back from early prognosis the Leinster and Ireland hooker appears to have avoided damaging the cruciate ligament.
“Richardt has got a medial ligament injury,” said Schmidt. “That will keep him out for about four weeks. That’s a massive bit of good news for us. We were thinking of about five months if it was ACL [anterior cruciate ligament]. Isa Nacewa has just got deep bruising in his forearm. There is no sign of a break. That’s also good news for us in a bad news weekend.”
Nacewa and Shane Jennings, who damaged his shoulder and was replaced by Jordi Murphy on Saturday, are on a wait and watch list as Leinster head for Ravenhill at the weekend to face the wounded Ulster.
Tommy Bowe is Ulster’s biggest headache as he faces an operation on his knee before the end of the week. Second row Dan Tuohy has torn a calf muscle and will be out for up to four weeks but Paddy Jackson (dead leg) could be available for selection.
Bowe is also on Kidney’s mind with Ireland’s first match of the Six Nations scheduled for February 2nd, when the team travels to Cardiff. However difficult Bowe’s injury to the lateral ligament in his right knee and his subsequent recovery is, he’s likely to miss a chunk of the Six Nations with the Lions tour also in jeopardy if it’s a five- or six-month lay-off.
While the Monaghan man tweeted on Sunday evening that the damage was not as bad as first thought, Ulster are sticking with the more conservative view of wait and see. The flip side of that from an Irish view point is that other players are travelling out of the emergency room.
“We also have more guys getting closer all the time,” added Schmidt, who has made a point of facing the questions in as many of the Monday morning briefings as he can when Leinster ship a defeat.
Due to return
“Brian, you’ll see him out there. It’s his first on field pitch session. Rob Kearney is due to start on the pitch next week. Luke [Fitzgerald] has been on the pitch for a while. Either Connacht [next week] or Edinburgh [the week after] might be an opportunity for him so we have to focus on that.”
Schmidt and Kidney have already discussed their needs in the run in to February’s international kick-off.
“I had a really good chat with Declan on Sunday afternoon and there was a fair bit of horse trading which is a really positive thing,” added Schmidt.
“There are the negotiable ones after that and it is good that we get a balance. He is probably conscious too that there are guys who haven’t played a massive amount so far that are in that national squad and who probably need game time as much as they do rest.”
Despite having a number of balls in the air Leinster are not at this stage looking to bring a player into the squad in the new year as they did last year.
“We did it last year because of injuries and would only look at it if qualified [to the knockout stage of the Heineken Cup] and we are far from qualified.”