Hamstrung Best and Kearney in race to be fit for November tests
Rob Kearney and Rory Best are in a race to be fit for Ireland's November internationals as the pair recover from hamstring injuries.
Leinster coach Leo Cullen yesterday revealed that Kearney would be out for six to eight weeks, while Best appeared on crutches at Ulster's Kingspan Stadium ahead of last night's clash with Scarlets and is awaiting the results of a scan that could rule him out for a similar stretch.
Full-back Kearney tore his hamstring in the province's win over Cardiff Blues last week, while Best suffered his injury in training on Thursday.
The Ireland skipper, who has yet to return to action, will learn his fate over the weekend when he gets his scan results back.
Although Cullen said scans revealed that Kearney's injury is not on the more serious end of the scale, he admitted Kearney's history of troublesome muscle issues would see them err on the side of caution rather than rush him back into action.
The injury ruled the 31-year-old Louthman out of Leinster's two-match mini-tour of South Africa which kicks off this afternoon in Port Elizabeth and will mean he misses next month's interprovincial derby against Munster and the opening two rounds of the European Champions Cup against Montpellier and Glasgow Warriors.
Best could be facing a similar time-frame and at the very least, both stalwarts will be short on game-time coming into the clashes with South Africa, Argentina and Fiji in November.
"He has a hamstring tear, it's not a massive tear but because of his history we'll just be ultra-cautious trying to get him back," Cullen said after overseeing training at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
"He's pretty frustrated by it, as is everybody, but it's hard to put an exact time-frame on it but it is in and around 6-8 weeks. We'll do what's best by Rob."
Cullen is aiming to put a difficult week behind him when his side take on the Southern Kings in the Guinness PRO14 game this afternoon (1.15 Irish time).
He confirmed that New Zealand natives Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park will return to South Africa and link up with the team in Cape Town tomorrow having initially been denied entry because they hadn't applied for a visa.
They will come into contention for Friday's second game of the tour against the Cheetahs and Cullen said neither player had been slated to start today's game in any event.
"It is unfortunate, we named a starting XV on the Tuesday before we left and neither player was in the starting XV, so in terms of disruption it's minimal," he said.
"It didn't really affect the group. At the airport, the group just moved on off to the hotel and started our preparations."
Rhys Ruddock leads the side in the absence of Nacewa, with a quartet of Ireland internationals - Jordi Murphy, Joey Carbery, Dave Kearney and Noel Reid - returning from injury for their first starts of the season to help bolster an inexperienced squad.