Luke Fitzgerald to miss final two games of season for Leinster
Ireland international undergoes shoulder operation and joins the already sidelined prop Marty Moore and hooker Seán Cronin
Leinster’s Luke Fitzgerald: Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen said “He will certainly be out for the next two weeks. I don’t think it’s a World Cup issue.” Photograph: Inpho
Luke Fitzgerald will miss the final two matches of Leinster’s season after undergoing an operation to repair a tear to the labrum in his shoulder. He joins teammates tighthead prop Marty Moore and hooker Seán Cronin in having his season prematurely curtailed following shoulder surgery.
The 27-year-old has endured an horrendous litany of injuries – neck, adductor, groin and hip to list just a few – but the latest issue, while disappointing for a player who has been outstanding for Leinster this season, and who regained a place in the national side for the Scotland match in the Six Nations Championship, is not thought to be that serious.
Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen explained: “Luke Fitzgerald has had an issue with his shoulder and that is being repaired as well. Basically it’s a repair to his Labrum; he suffered a bit of damage there. He only got it done at the weekend so it’s a bit early to say.
“We’ll find out more as the week goes on in terms of how long it might be. He will certainly be out for the next two weeks. I don’t think it’s a World Cup issue.”
A general medical prognosis for a moderate injury of that ilk suggests a rehabilitation period of between eight to 12 weeks, which if accurate might slightly delay the start of his pre-season. Leinster didn’t specify a rehabilitation timeframe but should be in a position later this week to clarify the recovery period.
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“Shane (Jennings) got a bang on the head and is still undergoing return-to-play protocols. He has passed the impact part so we’ll see how he is with symptoms this week with the gradual return to play.”
Leinster face two teams with plenty for which to play in their remaining matches; Treviso are looking to fend off Zebre for the automatic Italian qualifying place in next season’s Champions Cup while beaten European Challenge Cup finalists Edinburgh know that turning over Leinster at Murrayfield of the league proper could offer a handsome reward.
The Scottish side, the Scarlets and Leinster are vying for top six places. Cullen admitted: “Well obviously we only have two games to go so everyone should understand the significance of these two weeks and where we are in terms of qualifying for Europe next season.
“It’s not the situation we thought we would have found ourselves in at the start of this season. But with meritocracy, there are so many different dimensions at play at this stage of the season, and throughout the season, which we probably haven’t got our head around in terms of managing our resources I think it is fair to say.
“We are playing a team this week in Treviso who have a lot to play for in that they still have to finish ahead of Zebre, who they are just ahead of with two games to go. So they’ll be trying to get as many points as possible. Then we play Edinburgh the following week and they’re trying to get into sixth and potentially after results this week, get themselves into fifth.
“So our focus is to stay in that fifth spot and see where it gets us in terms of where we might be seeded in Europe next year . . . It’s simple, if we finish fifth we will qualify for Europe, that’s the main thing.”
“It’s a little position specific. Sometimes there are short term signings. You have seen it with the other provinces where they may be missing a couple of players in the same position. We may find ourselves in that position where we are missing players in a certain position; for example during the Six Nations we were missing four props at the same time. That leaves a massive strain on your resources. All the time we have to put these plans in place so we are trying to cover ourselves as much as possible.
“You think of that World Cup period where you are missing 20 players potentially. There are always going to be a couple of injuries, guys filling in. That’s the kind of number we are almost budgeting for which is a pretty significant chunk of your squad. There is going to be a bit of an absence of leadership and experience.
“It’s going to be good to have a body like Isa (Nacewa). Of course there is a bit of a risk. He has been out of the game for a couple of years. You see someone like Juan Smith playing for Toulon; he was out of the game for two years. You have seen the impact he’s had with Toulon over the past two years, phenomenal. If he (Isa) could have a similar influence to that it would be acceptable return.”