Leinster and Munster hit with injuries ahead of Champions Cup matches
Leinster’s Dave Kearney and Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell to miss quarter-final matches
Leinster’s Dave Kearney goes off injured during his side’s defeat to Ospreys on Saturday in Wales. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Inpho
The disconsolate figures of Leinster’s Dave Kearney and Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell leaving their respective games with injured arms folded into their jersey’s sling-style does not bode well for the two Irish players looking towards next weekend’s European Champions Cup quarter-final matches.
Kearney seems certain not to be available for selection against Saracens, while O’Donnell’s shoulder injury will keep the Irish backrow from any involvement in Munster’s home game against Toulon.
Leinster’s Fergus McFadden and Noel Reid also permanently left the field for head injury assessments in their Guinness Pro14 League match against Ospreys, leaving coach Leo Cullen with some figuring to do when the players arrive back into training on Monday morning.
The availability of both McFadden and Reid will be determined by how well they react to the return-to-play protocols, while Cullen will be hopeful that Sean O’Brien and Rhys Ruddock can declare themselves fit enough to play.
Leinster were forced into a scrambling game against Ospreys after Joey Carbery, playing at fullback, was switched to centre following McFadden and Reid’s HIA’s.
Kearney who had come on at fullback had to be taken off barely 10 minutes after his introduction, with scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park – the final back on the bench – having to cover for him.
Cullen will also be keeping a weather eye on what is going on at Saracens with director of rugby Mark McCall expressing concerns about the fitness of two of his key England players outhalf/centre Owen Farrell and lock George Kruis.
Although the Saracens players came through their match against Harlequins unscathed, McCall confirmed that Farrell (quad) and Kruis (back), who did not play at the weekend, are touch and go for next weekend’s game in Dublin while Billy Vunipola (arm) is unlikely to return.
“I don’t want to be too downbeat though as I’m really pleased to finish the game unscathed and get some confidence and rhythm into some players,” said McCall after their 24-11 win.
“We need to play much, much better next weekend, I know we can and I know we will.”
Munster’s injury list had already grown into a headache for coach Johann van Graan even before their win over Scarlets with O’Donnell joining in-form and injured Ireland backs Farrell and Keith Earls, and flanker Chris Cloete.
Speaking after the match van Graan didn’t have a medical assessment of O’Donnell to hand but it was plain to see as the player left the field that the injury was not a quick fix.
It is a bitter blow for O’Donnell, who has been plagued by injury in recent years.
“I haven’t spoken to the medical team [but] he’s in a lot of pain,” said van Graan following the 19-7 win over Scarlets.
“I think he’ll be out for quite a few weeks if I had to guess. But you never know in this game, we’ll just wait until Monday and we’ll reassess.”
Van Graan has also adopted a wait and see position with regard to his two Irish wingers Simon Zebo, who has a hamstring problem and Andrew Conway (knee), while centre Rory Scannell was replaced by Dan Goggin in the Scarlets match before undergoing a HIA. A shortage of backs is Munster’s biggest problem.
More positively van Graan, like Cullen, will welcome back his frontline international players with Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Conor Murray set to figure in training this week.
Likewise in Connacht, there was little obvious concern over Bundee Aki, who missed this weekend’s defeat by Edinburgh. Aki was undergoing a HIA last week following a knock to the head in Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning match against England.