Wednesday 18 September 2019

Another hefty blow with trio in doubt for Bath trip

Dejected Leinster players (from left) Luke McGrath, Cian Healy, Jordi Murphy, and Jamie Heaslip troop off the pitch after their humiliating defeat to Wasps
Dejected Leinster players (from left) Luke McGrath, Cian Healy, Jordi Murphy, and Jamie Heaslip troop off the pitch after their humiliating defeat to Wasps
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster could be without Sean O'Brien, Mike McCarthy and Richardt Strauss for next week's must-win trip to Bath after all three went off during yesterday's record home European defeat to Wasps with suspected concussions.

Under the 'graduated return to play protocols', the trio will rest today and be allowed to do light running or bike work on Tuesday. If they don't show any symptoms, they can increase their running on Wednesday, which is Leinster's day off, and if they again fail to show any symptoms, they can take part in non-contact drills on Thursday.

If they remain symptom free, the first time they'd be allowed take contact is Friday, which is usually a light Captain's Run session before the game, meaning a narrow window for all three to return.

Leo Cullen is also sweating on injured backs Isa Nacewa (knee), Rob Kearney (hamstring), Luke Fitzgerald (shoulder) and Ben Te'o (glute), none of whom are expected to train tomorrow. Rhys Ruddock should come back into contention.

Bath, meanwhile, have had the weekend off due to their opening fixture against Toulon on Saturday being postponed because of the tragic events in Paris on Friday.

"We have Bath in six days. We knew this pool would be challenging, but it just got a lot tougher," Cullen said.

"I definitely feel we can still qualify. We have lost at home in the RDS before in the first game and qualified from the pool.

"This group was always going to be difficult and we've made life very difficult for ourselves but it's important we stand up now and be counted as individuals, as a group, and as a team.

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"It's a massive challenge for us but this pool was always going to be exciting and now we have to go to Bath and give it our all. We're not thinking much further down the track."

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young believes Leinster remain alive in the group.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, Leinster will bounce back from this," he said. "It wasn't their day today, it was our day. They've shown in the past that when people write them off that they come back, so I'm sure they'll be in there right at the end."

Young confirmed that his star full-back Charles Piutau would definitely move to Ulster at the end of the season, despite suggestions the English club would attempt to hijack the deal.

The full-back was outstanding at the RDS, scoring his side's third try, and could link up with fellow New Zealander Victor Vito at the Kingspan Stadium next season.

Piutau signed a deal worth more than £1m (€1.41m) to join Ulster from the summer of 2016, but the Blues gave him an early release. With Louis Ludik still on the books as a full-back, the northern province couldn't accelerate their own deal, meaning Wasps took advantage.

"He's contracted to Ulster," Young said. "I thought he was outstanding today. We were quite lucky that he was contracted and couldn't go there this season, so they were looking for somewhere for him to go for a season and our hand was straight up there.

"I thought he did a great job for us. Ulster have got a fantastic player."

It appears likely that he won't be the only addition to Les Kiss's squad next year as the lucrative deal for Vito nears completion on a similar contract to Piutau, meaning Ulster will be spending more than £1m a year on All Black talent for the next two seasons.

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