The news that Dan Leavy’s season is over less than four months into his comeback is a desperately disappointing blow for the man himself, as well as for Leinster and Ireland.
His province has confirmed that the 26-year-old underwent a procedure to repair cartilage in his knee “which will keep him out of action for the rest of the season” in their injury update ahead of next Friday’s Guinness Pro 14 game away to the Dragons.
Their statement did not state whether the procedure was to the same knee which was so severely damaged in the Champions Cup quarter-final against Ulster in March 2019 that he was ultimately sidelined for almost 19 months, although it is not unusual for some cartilage damage after a major ACL operation.
As befits such a prized player, Leinster had been treading carefully with Leavy ever since he made his return last October, the first of nine appearances, including four starts and five off the bench. His best performance was probably in the last of those, when scoring the third try of his comeback in a typically all-action display for 78 minutes against the Scarlets at the end of January when at openside.
Leavy at full throttle, a la the 2018 Grand Slam, would be a huge asset to Ireland as well as Leinster, but he is still only 26 and in the fervent hope that he returns next summer and has a good pre-season, he has still has plenty of top-class rugby in him.
There were no positive noises either regarding another brilliant young backrower, Caelan Doris, suggesting he will not be back in the Six Nations mix for Ireland. Leinster’s statement said the 22-year-old number eight “flagged some concussive symptoms while in camp with Ireland and he returned to Leinster Rugby to further investigate those symptoms. Once the investigation is complete and all information is to hand, we will issue a further update”.
With Max Deegan (knee) another long-term absentee, and three loose forwards in the Irish squad, even with their unrivalled backrow resources Leinster are feeling the pinch now and it seems likely that Jack Conan will be released to play this weekend.
There was some positive news in Leinster's missive, with Rory O'Loughlin and Tommy O'Brien having returned to training following shoulder and ankle injuries and are available this week. Michael Bent and Scott Penny have also returned to training after neck injuries but both will require further assessment this week.
Adam Byrne is also nearing a return after recovering from a hamstring issue and will look to increase his training load this week, while like Deegan, Jimmy O'Brien (hamstring), Conor O'Brien (knee) and Vakh Abdaladze (back) remain long-term absentees.
In what appears to be further bad news for Andy Farrell, Ulster have revealed that Jacob Stockdale will not be available for their Pro 14 game away to Glasgow on Friday night.
The Irish head coach had expressed the belief that Stockdale would have recovered from the knee injury which ruled him out of Ireland’s opening two games of the Six Nations but that seems less likely now. Stockdale hasn’t played since Ulster’s win over Munster on January 2nd.
Ulster have issued a sizeable injury list in advance of their visit to Scotstoun, with Luke Marshall (knee), Jack McGrath (hip), David O’Connor (shoulder), Will Addison (back), Angus Curtis (knee), Rob Baloucoune (hamstring) and Sean Reidy (shoulder) also ruled out.
It’s likely that Tom O’Toole and Stuart McCloskey will be released back to the province for Friday’s game.