Cullen optimistic over Lowe return following shoulder surgery
Leinster sees a number of injured players return including Penny, Daly and Byrne
James Lowe underwent surgery following last season’s Pro14 final against the Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is optimistic that James Lowe will be back as Leinster’s Pro14 campaign gets underway against Benetton Treviso on September 28th following the New Zealand born player’s elective shoulder reconstruction during the summer. Lowe underwent surgery following last season’s Pro14 final against the Glasgow Warriors.
Cullen explained: “Yeah roughly. It might be a week or two either side of that [date]. There’s just an accumulation of knocks I think. Sometimes, with certain body parts, if you get a bit of a tear and then get another knock and that tear becomes bigger to the point where there is instability, then you get it repaired and then you’re good to go again.
“Obviously with the season starting later some of those calls are made and [he’s] happy to bite the bullet and get that fixed up.”
Scott Penny had surgery on both shoulders, albeit performed slightly earlier, as he didn’t travel with the Ireland squad to the Under-20 World Cup in Argentina and will be back slightly sooner. Jamison Gibson-Park (hamstring) has been reintegrated into training while wing Hugo Keenan, who sustained a knee ligament injury while on duty for the Ireland Sevens, will rejoin the squad this week ahead of Saturday’s pre-season friendly against Coventry at Donnybrook.
A fall back
Dan Leavy had his ACL and MCL repaired in July and there is no real prognosis on his return date. The Leinster and Ireland flanker is focusing on projects outside of rugby, when not immersed in his rehabilitation regime. Cullen said: “He’s in with us at the moment. I know he has had a few different work experience pieces he has put together for himself.
“It’s important for the lads to have something else that they can fall back on and we’ve tried to drive that message. Dan has been excellent in terms of just being around the place and still being able to contribute. I don’t get the impression he needs anything else done. His last operation was the ACL repair.
“The ACL are all different. It is in that six to nine month window. Because he has had other bits going on, it will be a big chunk of time. It is impossible to give any accurate information.” Cullen pointed to the fact that Welsh flanker Aaron Shingler missed an entire season, sustaining ACL damage in the 2018 Pro14 final and returning for his first match last weekend when playing for Wales against England.
When asked about the possibility of new signings, Cullen smiled and said “We’re always on the lookout for good players. As long as they are good, and they can add, we’re on the lookout.”
The rule change governing Non Irish Qualified (NIQ) players – World Rugby has changed the qualification period from three years to five – means that it is unlikely to be an option for Irish provinces to sign players in that manner going forward. Cullen said: “It’s trickier. You can still target that player but they are into the open market and then it is up to them what they want to do. It’s a long time.”
Vulnerable New Zealand
Conversation switched to the World Cup and the constantly shifting landscape with regard to the mantle of favourites. Cullen said: “There are lots of teams that can win the World Cup, genuinely win it, whereas I don’t think that was the case in the past.
“Two years ago no one would have given South Africa chance whereas now they look very strong physically and have good clarity in what they are trying to do; very strong defensively and their defensive pressure is creating a lot of opportunities in attack.
“New Zealand look vulnerable. They played Argentina and they (Argentina) had so many chances to win that game, ultimately didn’t do it. In the New Zealand versus South Africa game, South Africa had the better of the first half, New Zealand the better of the second half. South Africa then came up with a big moment at the end to snatch a draw.
“Japan are going well in the games that they are playing. I think everyone has to respect for Japan and what they are doing. They are beating decent teams, maybe not quite the top tier but pretty efficient in what they are doing.
“Scotland, you can see what they did against England in the first half versus the second half. It depends what team you want to judge. The one in the first half didn’t look great; the one in the second half looked very, very good. It is how teams adapt in Japan. The conditions are so different and alien.”