Jamie Heaslip set to return for European Cup clash against Castres
Leo Cullen blames physicality of modern game Leinster’s injury crisis
Leinster’s Jamie Heaslip receives treatment from physio Garreth Farrell during the weekend’s match with Ulster. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Now that Mr Indestructible, Jamie Heaslip, has sustained right shoulder damage, the provincial coaches are in agreement on one point after Leinster’s 24-11 defeat of Ulster at the RDS on Saturday: the injury problem has reached epidemic proportions.
Following a scan, Heaslip’s injury is not considered too serious and he should return to face Castres on January 17th but this is the latest addition to a very long list.
“It’s the nature of the way the game has gone,” said Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen. “It’s a lot more physical than it has ever been in the past and our opposition have their share of injuries as well. Ulster, Munster as well. All the provinces have gone through it.”
Connacht, for example, recently released an 11-man injury list.
Heaslip has not been forced off the field since the bonus point defeat away to ASM Clermont Auvergne in December 2010. And that ankle injury healed up within seven days.
Shane Jennings was the latest absent Leinster player after a recurrence of a hamstring problem that already ruled the flanker out for 12 weeks. Updates are also due on Rob Kearney and Eoin Reddan ahead of Saturday’s trip to Cardiff.
“It was particularly bad for us at one stage this year, as bad as it has ever been,” Cullen admitted, “but you have to manage your way through, rely on the squad and some of the young lads coming through.”
That at least has been a silver-lining with Jack Conan bringing a new dimension to Leinster’s number eight play. Some thunderous carrying was eventually rewarded with a late try and the man-of-the-match award.
TightheadCian HealyMarty MooreMike RossTadhg Furlong
“We’ve got a bit more competition for places again,” said Cullen. “Before, there was a period where we were literally scraping a team together because there were so many guys unavailable.”
This, in many respects, has been a valid excuse for Leinster’s poor form this season but the last 20 minutes at the RDS, with Ian Madigan retained at outhalf despite Jimmy Gopperth’s arrival, did show signs of a controlled revival.
“We are entering into a period which very much defines our season.
“Nothing is going to be won by the end of January but you can get yourself into a pretty good position, so we know a win against Cardiff sets us up pretty well in the league and sets us up for those two games in Europe.”
Castres come to Dublin on January 17th with the last Pool match away to Wasps the following Saturday.
Ulster’s plight, and by association Ireland, appears grimmer than ever with Tommy Bowe forced off with what was initially reported as a dead leg. Bowe also required treatment for a head wound.
Yellow cardNeil Doak
So everything really.
“Align that with 11, 12 first teamers not available to us for the vast majority of the season. Especially away from home, we have had a couple of yellow cards and a red card and we still could have won those games if we had taken those penalties.
“A couple of refereeing and TMO decisions unfortunately have come back to haunt us. A couple of kicks at goal, especially in the last couple of weeks, have come back to haunt us.
“Small margins at the top end of professional sport – you got to take these opportunities. We aren’t doing that at the moment. It’s not from a lack of hard work from the players. It’s the pressures of the games – we got to finish.”
Doak also stated that Jared Payne and Iain Henderson are unlikely to return ahead of the final European matches away to champions Toulon and home to Leicester, making both a doubt for the Six Nations.
“It’s pretty frustrating.”