Nick McCarthy key to Leinster’s ‘non-European player’ slots
Scrumhalf just one fitness concern for Saracens game as O’Brien and Ruddock return to training
Nick McCarthy has been troubled by a knee injury and if he is unavailable then Jamison Gibson Park is likely to understudy Luke McGrath for the Saracens match. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Nick McCarthy might hold the key to the selection riddle ahead of Leinster’s Champions Cup quarter-final against the two-time and defending champions, Saracens at the Aviva stadium on Sunday.
The scrumhalf has been troubled by a knee injury of late and if he is unavailable then Jamison Gibson Park is likely to understudy Luke McGrath for the Saracens match. The knock-on effect would be that Leinster’s head coach Leo Cullen would have to choose between James Lowe and Scott Fardy for the second “non-European player” slots in the squad.
Compounding the issue further are the injuries sustained by wings in the Guinness Pro14 defeat to the Ospreys on Saturday night. Dave Kearney picked up a shoulder injury when coming on as a replacement and is out of the Saracens match while Fergus McFadden did not return to the pitch at the Liberty stadium after undergoing a HIA and must observe the return-to-play protocols.
Jordan Larmour (calf) is also a non-starter at the weekend while centre Noel Reid was withdrawn early in the match for a HIA (Head Injury Assessment) but suffered further damage to the eye socket in the incident and won’t be available for selection.
If Lowe can’t be selected and McFadden is ruled out then Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin and Barry Daly – Isa Nacewa is likely to play at inside centre – will vie for the two wing positions. Number eight, Jack Conan sustained a knock to his knee in the second half in Wales and the medical team are monitoring his progress.
Seán O’Brien (shoulder) and Rhys Ruddock (hamstring) are back in training and will be further assessed after training midweek before a decision is taken on whether they are available for selection. The prognosis is positive.
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster explained: “We will be able to let you know little bit more by close of play Wednesday. Seánie has done really well to get himself back into this position. Jack Conan got a knock during the game [against Ospreys], he won’t be training [ on Monday].”
Lancaster said of Ruddock: “Well, he’s passed all the markers – not just passed them, but he’s flown past them. He’s done one of the best fitness tests that we’ve ever had from a forward; he is faster on the GPS than he has been before. He has done brilliantly to get back, and credit to not just him, but the S&C and medical staff for turning it around. It’s a real bonus to have him back training today.