Elwood likely to be back by October


Ireland out-half Eric Elwood yesterday learnt that he will not require an operation on his injured knee and should be back in training with Connacht in the next three to four weeks.

Elwood damaged knee medial ligaments in the first half of his side's defeat by Leinster at Donnybrook on Friday, prompting a visit to orthopaedic surgeon Ray Moran in Blackrock Clinic yesterday.

"I'm delighted with the news, as it means there won't be a need for an operation or for casts, or anything like that," said Elwood yesterday. "I can continue cycling before I see the specialist again in three weeks, and hopefully I should be playing again in about four or five weeks."

The injury will rule Elwood out of Connacht's next interprovincial on Saturday week in Limerick, as well as their opening two European Shield games. But as his absence begins with Friday's friendly away to Glasgow Caledonians and also incorporates the opening week of Shield fixtures, when Connacht are idle, his loss could have been more acute. Conceivably Elwood could be back in time for Connacht's penultimate interprovincial against Leinster on October 3rd.

Elwood's absence could also be partially offset by the return of his international half-back partner Conor McGuinness, who is in line for a return to the Connacht squad this weekend. So, too, is another casualty of the South Africa tour, Jonathan Bell, who played half a game for Dungannon last Saturday. Like their opponents, Munster, in this Friday's match at Ravenhill, Ulster (for whom Allen Clarke and Jan Cunningham are expected to recover from a bruised shoulder and arm respectively) will finalise their side in the next 48 hours.

Dennis Hickie, triple try scorer on his seasonal return for the Leinster A side last weekend, is promoted to a slightly experimental Leinster senior side for Friday's game against Edinburgh Reivers. Another try scorer on his seasonal return last Friday, Pat Ward, is also promoted after unluckily missing out on the away win against Munster.

They replace Girvan Dempsey and Trevor Brennan (chest infection) while Dermot O'Sullivan comes in for Shane Horgan (exams), Henry Hurley replaces Emmet Byrne, Hubie Kos comes in for Pat Holden and Colin McEntee replaces the injured Victor Costello.

Gordon D'Arcy is brought onto the replacements bench and it seems a safe bet that the highly regarded Brian O'Driscoll would have been promoted as well but for sustaining a knee medial ligament injury which will also sideline him for four to six weeks.

Leinster: K Nowlan; J McWeeney, D O'Sullivan, M Ridge, D Hickie; A McGowan, D O'Mahony; H Hurley, S Byrne, A McKeen, H Kos, G Fulcher (capt), D O'Brien, C McEntee, P Ward. Replacements - B Carey, G D'Arcy, D Hegarty, P Smyth, E Byrne, L Cullen, C Brownlie.

Eddie Wigglesworth has been appointed as the IRFU's director of rugby development in succession to Ray Southam, and will take up his new appointment next Monday.

Wigglesworth, who has been chief executive of the Leinster Branch since February 1994, said: "I am delighted to be taking up this position at a very critical and exciting time in Irish rugby."

He will oversee all the development officers within the union's umbrella and his appointment is seen as a push towards increasing their output on the coaching and playing fields.

The South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) appointed Silas Nkanunu as its first black president in Cape Town yesterday, signalling an end to white domination in one of the country's most popular sports.

Nkanunu, a 65-year-old lawyer and formerly SARFU vice-president, was the only nominee for the post, vacated by the controversial Louis Luyt in May.

Luyt was ousted by SARFU reformers after President Nelson Mandela was forced to go to court to defend his appointment of a judicial inquiry into the sport.