Connacht suffer multiple blows
The imminent departure of star players Sean Cronin, Ian Keatley and Fionn Carr to other Irish provinces, and the injuries sustained by captain John Muldoon and back-row colleague Johnny O'Connor, are far bigger setbacks to Connacht than their exit from the Amlin Challenge Cup at the hands of Harlequins on Friday night.
It's expected that Leinster will pick up both Carr and Cronin, while Keatley will move south to Munster to compensate for the loss of Paul Warwick to Stade Francais next season.
While the departure of the three players, who moved west because they couldn't get a look in elsewhere in Ireland, was expected, coming on the back of Muldoon's injury -- and that of O'Connor -- makes for a very costly week for coach Eric Elwood.
Muldoon has broken the same arm that cut short his Ireland tour of New Zealand last June when he was only minutes into his debut.
And O'Connor, who had only just returned from a lengthy back injury, is to have a scan today after suffering further damage to it on Friday night. It is understood the Muldoon injury is not as serious as the original, which required surgery.
"Coming on top of the lads leaving it's been a hard week," Elwood said yesterday. "In fairness they came into us during the week and informed us that they would be moving on at the end of the season and that they were talking to other clubs. And given that it's a World Cup season we're coming into we were always going to be an easier target from clubs looking to fill gaps in their squads.
"We always knew these things could happen. If clubs are coming in looking for them then obviously the players are doing well and we must be doing something right. So we always knew that would be the case. But on the other hand it's disappointing because we had hoped to hang on to them for another while."
Connacht's defeat by Harlequins ends their interest in Europe and they have Munster coming to the Sportsground in the Magners League on St Stephen's Day.