O’Brien to see specialist as shoulder worries linger

Leinster and Ireland flanker will not play this weekend and is not due back any time soon

Seán O'Brien will see a specialist this week with regard to an ongoing shoulder problem, which, although officially little is being made of it, must be causing the player and both the Leinster and Ireland coaching staffs some concern given the opening European rounds and the November internationals are looming on the horizon.

The Lions flanker has been sidelined for Leinster's last three Guinness Pro12 games since their defeat to Glasgow on the opening weekend of the campaign a month ago, ostensibly due to a minor ankle procedure. He is he out of consideration for Saturday's rendezvous with Munster at the Aviva and is not due back any time soon.

Return to play date

“He had a little loose body taken out of that and is recovering well,” said

Richie Murphy

, Leinster’s backs coach, yesterday, regarding O’Brien’s ankle problem, “but we’re not sure on a return to play date at the moment.”

“The ankle is the main problem at the moment,” maintained Murphy. A tad worryingly though, given O’Brien was sidelined for over four months last season after an operation for a dislocated shoulder, the Leinster backs coach added:

“He has had a little bit of a shoulder thing going on and I think he’s going to see someone in relation to that this week.”

Leinster host Wasps in just under three weeks, with a trek to Castres the following week, while the first November Test against South Africa is six weeks away, for which Joe Schmidt is already resigned to being without Cian Healy, Donnacha Ryan, Iain Henderson, Dan Tuohy, Keith Earls and Dave Kearney.

Compounding the O'Brien injury is that Shane Jennings is likely be out for another two or three weeks due to the torn hamstring he suffered in the Sportsground just over a week ago, although this is offset by Dominic Ryan's wellbeing.

Furthermore, Richardt Strauss, who has been sidelined since March with a torn hamstring, "is back in full training this week with a view to getting some game time this week." So, at a push, might Zane Kirchener and Kevin McLaughlin.

Regarding their high injury profile, Murphy said: “We would normally be running at a lot less. It is just one of those things. A lot of the injuries are trauma-based, which you can’t really account for”.

Of further consolation is Gordon D’Arcy’s return to optimum health and form since a shoulder operation in early June. Murphy probably spoke for most when good-naturedly observing of D’Arcy: “He also looks 10 years younger after shaving the beard off as well, so I think he’s back to 25.”

Announcement

It was around that age D’Arcy was announcing himself to the world as a reinvented outside centre, before doing so at inside centre to accommodate a certain Brian O’Driscoll, and it could be that he’s about to repeat the trick.

“He had a fine game at the weekend,” added Murphy, who is also on the Irish coaching ticket, of D’Arcy’s try-scoring role at outside centre. “His leadership with the younger guys around him is fantastic. He could easily play 12 or 13 for Leinster and for Ireland this year. We’ve obviously played him at 13 with Mads (Ian Madigan) inside him. The balance is reasonably good there. I’m not sure where he’ll actually end up when it comes to the big games.”

“It’s a number at this stage,” said D’Arcy yesterday. “Matt [O’Connor] summed it up by saying I’ll play where I’m told. I’m just happy to be playing anywhere on the pitch. It was fine, defensively. I like defending. It’s a bit of a different mentality compared to 12 – you have to keep the peripheral in your mind. At 12, you can have tunnel vision. I’ve had chats with Joe and Matt and I have a pretty fair idea what they want from me.”

Although he admits Leinster’s performance in their 37- 23 win over Cardiff was “mediocre”, he himself is physically in good shape. “Mentally I’m in a brilliant place. I’ve a brilliant relationship with the two coaches I have. They’ve been very honest with me. I know I won’t be playing for another five years. So you can enjoy the immediate future a lot more and that can give you a little boost in every game.”

Looking back on 16 seasons of derbies with Munster, D'Arcy said: "Keith Wood turned me inside out in my first game – a hooker turning a fullback inside out. That was because I wasn't ready for the intensity of this level . . ."

“This week there might as well be no other competitions being played. It’s all about the red playing the blue. We have it at home, in the Aviva, and we have an obligation to the fans who have been supportive of us to live up to their expectations as well as our own.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times

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