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Possible hole in O'Connor's forward unit plans


Matt O'Connor

Matt O'Connor

Matt O'Connor

Genuine fear Ireland's Rob Kearney would need surgery to his shoulder has faded. The negative news is that the Leinster full-back will be hard-pressed to make the European Champions Cup tie against Harlequins next Sunday.

Kearney took a hard, but fair hit from Australia wing Henry Speight in Ireland's final November international last Saturday week. A scan revealed inconclusive evidence over the extent of the damage done.

On further inspection, by a specialist late last week, it was discovered that Kearney had aggravated an old injury and is faced with making it back for Harlequins as opposed to surgery to his shoulder.

Hooker Richardt Strauss was also said to be hauled off against Benetton Treviso with a hamstring injury, bringing back memories of the surgery to that area last May.

As it turned out, Strauss had suffered a problem with his groin and has been treated with caution ahead of Leinster's return to European action.

Unfortunately, coach Matt O'Connor may not have to make a decision at fly-half between the merits out-of-form Jimmy Gopperth and in-form Ian Madigan, playing out of position.

The Irish international wrenched his ankle in a collision in the first half against the Ospreys and was removed at half-time when it was deemed prudent to turn one eye towards next Sunday at the Stoop.

Leinster will take a wait-and-see approach to how Madigan reacts to the injury.

He could have a hole at the heart of his forward unit as Kane Douglas was withdrawn with suspected concussion against the Ospreys.

This followed in the shadow of Ireland lock Mike McCarthy reporting symptoms of his concussion against Georgia on the morning of the Ospreys match.

Leinster will have to come together quickly with a list of Ireland internationals on their way back for Harlequins. O'Connor discounted this difficulty by alluding to the fact that the English club has something of the same problem.

"Their form is a little bit irrelevant at the minute because they have class players and leaders away with England at the minute," said Leinster's coach.

The London club lost three from four during the November international window, going down to Bath (25-6) on Friday night to stand at eighth, losing one more than they have won over nine rounds.

They have contrasted this with fine form in the Champions Cup bringing Wasps and Castres Olympique to heel.

"It's hard to gauge their form. They're a very good side and they've shown that in the first two pool games against Wasps and Castres.

"We'll have to bring our 'A' game and be incredibly accurate across the board," warned O'Connor.

"Blokes like Nick Evans, Danny Care, Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw are class players. Nick Easter is still playing class footie."

"We have the utmost respect for them. They will challenge you with ball in hand.

"They will play."