Leinster suffer another lock out
RUGBY:Leinster’s relationship with South African secondrows continues to frustrate. On a crisp winters afternoon the sight of Jamie Heaslip and most of the other Ireland internationals bounding onto the all-weather pitch in UCD was overshadowed by confirmation that Quinn Roux is facing “16 to 20 weeks” of rehabilitation after dislocating his shoulder during Friday’s 6-0 victory in Glasgow.
The 22-year-old Pretoria native arrived this summer with a reputation that promised he would become the long-term option for the European champions at tighthead lock. Fellow countryman Steven Sykes proved an utter failure last season – departing home with injury only to immediately line out for the Natal Sharks – with the silver lining, of course, being Brad Thorn’s arrival from Japan on a short-term yet hugely productive deal.
Joe Schmidt confirmed yesterday the great All Black’s second coming is a non-runner.
“Thorny is already signed for the Highlanders in New Zealand so there is no going there. At the same time we got Damien Browne back on the field and Tom Denton back from injury as well.
“I don’t know if you kept an eye on him on Friday but I thought Leo Cullen trucked around pretty well. Spring chicken that he is. There is still a bit of life in those legs.”
Injury to Roux, however, ensures the task of replacing Nathan Hines continues. Many wanted the Australian, with Scotland caps, to be given an extension instead of haunting Leinster in an ASM Clermont Auvergne jersey. That will happen for a second season running on December 9th.
Roux, having already stuttered out of the blocks of his Leinster career due to a broken collarbone, finally looked like the solution.
“Ah, I don’t know if you saw it but he was starting to get a little bit of rhythm,” said Schmidt. “He is a very strong man and we were starting to get a little excited about what we thought he could bring to help us out.
“It’s really devastating for him. He is really gutted, obviously. Just the way he fell, his shoulder dislocation, he is probably looking at 16 to 20 weeks’ rehabilitation.”
Does the 6ft 5in, 117 kilogramme lock have a history of shoulder injuries? “No, no. That could happen to any player at any time. He’s a 22-year-old kid who I think is a very, very good athlete, very strong who unfortunately landed awkwardly.”
With no Brad Thorn type player available, Schmidt ruled out the medical joker option. The candidates to partner Cullen now appear to be Browne, Denton, Devin Toner or even Ben Marshall with Kevin McLaughlin to continue his impressive campaign on the blindside flank.
There was also the sight of a noticeably larger version of Mark Flanagan being put though his paces yesterday but Toner’s cousin remains in the same category as Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll. “Brian and Rob, mid-January is their expected return-to-play date. We’ll be guided by the surgeons and the specialists as to what sort of state they are in.”
That makes the continuing progress of Eoin O’Malley (knee) and Luke Fitzgerald (neck) more important than ever. O’Malley was initially tipped to return in November only to suffer a minor setback. Fitzgerald has yet to take full contact.
“Luke is in great shape,” Schmidt continued. “I think if you see him out there training he is extremely sharp on his feet. It is just a matter of waiting for the all clear for him to take full contact again. That might be one, two, three or four weeks away. I don’t expect it to be any more than that. He has made really good progress.
“He’s ahead of schedule. We got a bit excited that he might be a bit further ahead than that but unfortunately we have to be patient because he is a top-quality member of our environment.
“Eoin O’Malley is a guy who could possibly be involved this weekend (at home to Zebre) or next weekend (in Clermont Auvergne).”
Meanwhile, Johann Muller (thumb) is due to return as Ulster captain in Llanelli on Sunday with Rory Best (neck/shoulder) targeting the trip to Northampton on December 7th, while Stephen Ferris (ankle ligaments) is aiming for Northampton’s visit to Ravenhill on December 15th.
Paul O’Connell will not train with Munster this week but number eight James Coughlan looks likely to return from a groin strain, while Tommy O’Donnell’s ankle problem is expected to clear up.
Finally, Connacht have resigned their promising loosehead prop Denis Buckley until 2015.