Friday 19 January 2018

Leinster won't take a chance with Heaslip shoulder

Leinster's Jamie Heaslip in action during squad training
Leinster's Jamie Heaslip in action during squad training
David Kelly

David Kelly

LEINSTER won't take risks with Jamie Heaslip's fitness ahead of this weekend's visit of former French champions Castres to the RDS in their Round 5 European Champions Cup tie.

As Matt O'Connor's men prepare for the defining fortnight of their European campaign, questing not merely a quarter-final berth but a money-spinning Dublin tie too, they will decide that discretion, rather than valour, dictates their treatment of injured players.

Heaslip hasn't played since exiting against Ulster in the first Pro12 outing of the new year - his first injury-enforced departure since late 2010 - and after suffering significant damage to his AC shoulder joint, he has undergone no contact work since.

With the crucial visit to Wasps looming on Saturday week, O'Connor may decide to allow his No 8 another week's recuperation, confident that the rest of his available troops can dispatch a Castres side who usually vacate all interest in Europe by January.

"Jamie didn't do any rugby last week," admitted forwards coach Leo Cullen.

"He's just making sure he gets himself ready so that he can start pushing again. He's pretty close. We'll see what he looks like training. He's probably 50-50 for the weekend.

"He had a pretty significant trauma to his AC. He generally recovers pretty quickly. But it's how he manages the week, then we can test him out with contact and make a decision on him later in the week."

For Leinster to risk such a talismanic player would be foolhardy in the extreme, especially with understudies such as Jack Conan performing so well.

Zane Kirchner was seen hobbling around Leinster HQ yesterday but Cullen was uncertain as to his exact injury profile.

"I think he had a bang on his leg," said Cullen. "He didn't train with us last week.

"He trained earlier in the week but he was pulled from the Cardiff game because he was feeling a bit of tightness.

"This morning, when the medical report came in, he was available to train."

Cian Healy's prognosis remains utterly confounding and appears to change daily; the latest indications are that an appearance this weekend would be a "long shot".

Back-row Sean O'Brien will definitely not feature in either European tie but his recovery remains positive.

"You almost want to protect them from themselves," added Cullen, alluding to the almighty clatter of conjecture about the duo that caused such a flap last week.

"I don't know who said what. Those two guys are so keen to be involved. It's about letting the medics use their experience.

"In terms of Cian's situation, he is quite similar to Richardt Strauss.

"Richardt came back from a hamstring tear off the bone as well, so they have a pretty good idea, dealing with the surgeons as well outside of this environment.

"With Sean coming back from his shoulder, there is a very set amount of return protocols with him. The medics will be the ones that will ultimately decide."

Shane Jennings is back in contention, although Kevin McLaughlin and Rhys Ruddock remain long-term absentees in the back-row.

Irish Independent

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