Donnacha Ryan and Keith Earls add to Munster’s injury woes

Lock facing ‘last resort’ surgery while there is no timeframe for utility back’s return

Donnacha Ryan: last played for Munster in March and will now not return before January at the earliest. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

Donnacha Ryan: last played for Munster in March and will now not return before January at the earliest. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

 

As Munster’s woes and injury crises piled up, Anthony Foley yesterday intimated he would be unable to name either Donnacha Ryan or Keith Earls in his squad for the inaugural European Champions Cup, which has to be submitted by Thursday. Neither player has been available to Joe Schmidt in his time as Ireland coach, each having played their last game for Ireland in Declan Kidney’s final match in Rome two seasons ago, and nor will either player be fit any time soon.

Ryan and Earls have been troubled by long-term toe and knee injuries, with Ryan’s recurring toe problem a particular concern. Following a consultation with a specialist in London it has been confirmed that the 30-year-old lock will now require surgery in what is regarded as “a last resort”.

Ryan hasn’t played for Munster since last March when injuring his toe in a Pro12 game against Treviso and won the last of his 28 caps in that defeat to the Azzurri in March 2013 which brought the curtain down on Kidney’s reign. According to Foley, anyone watching Ryan in training would find it hard to comprehend the lock had a problem but, problematically, he is simply unable to scrummage.

Weird injury

“You are looking at him out there opposite us today going at our lineout, going out there full-on and the foot can’t withstand any scrummaging. So we have done everything in our power but unfortunately it is going to be surgery now for him. It is a bitter pill for us to swallow but we will get on with it,” admitted Foley, who maintained they had enough cover wkith Paul O’Connell, Dave Foley, Billy Holland and Donncha O’Callaghan.

Ryan had undergone “extensive, conservative rehabilitation” over the last six months, but will now be sidelined until January at the earliest, potentially ruling him out of Munster’s six European pool fixtures against Saracens, Clermont and Sale as well as the November Tests, not to mention the Six Nations and beyond.

With Iain Henderson and Dan Tuohy also ruled out for the November series, aside from leaving Ulster down to the bare bones in the secondrow, there is the danger of a mounting injury crisis at lock for Schmidt and the Irish coaching staff as well.

Furthermore, Earls’ latest injury concern and the ongoing problems for his equally unlucky contemporary Luke Fitzgerald limit Schmidt’s options at 13 in the post-Brian O’Driscoll era, while it must be of worrying that there remains no sign of a return to fitness for Sean O’Brien due to another shoulder problem since his sole outing of the season in Leinster’s opening Pro12 defeat in Glasgow.

Foley was also reluctant to put any timeframe on Earls’ prospective recovery pending a visit to a Swedish knee specialist in London early next week. Earls picked up the injury at an Irish training camp in August, after which the projected timeframe for his recovery was four to five weeks.

Utility back

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Munster’s new signing Tyler Bleyendaal “underwent a successful operation on a disc lesion and is feeling comfortable” according to the province, although likewise there is no estimated time of recovery for the 24-year-old Canterbury outhalf cum centre.

“I got a text from him yesterday saying the operation went well,” said Foley. “He is recovering so we are in constant communication with him, the operation has taken place and it was a success so we just need to see how he recovers. He is contracted until December in New Zealand so I don’t think it is wise to put a fella on a plane and bring him all the way over here. They have Neil Tucker over there who was the physio here with us, so our physio will be in communication with him finding what the story is,” he said.

With Mike Sherry another long-term absentee and Damien Varley (foot) working his way back to fitness, at least the Argentinian international Eusebio Guinazu has pitched up in training to ease Munster’s problems at hooker, although Foley said he would be given another week as they prepare to host early Pro12 pacesetters the Ospreys this Saturday.

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