Thursday 23 November 2017

Ospreys rocked by double blow

David Kelly

David Kelly

The Ospreys have been left reeling by a double blow ahead of their crunch Heineken Cup visit to Thomond Park, with Lee Byrne and Marty Holah set to miss Sunday's clash.

The Ospreys are confident of overturning what lock Alun-Wyn Jones deemed a "laughable" two-week ban for tripping imposed on influential open-side Holah, but Lions star Byrne is definitely ruled out after breaking his thumb.

Byrne sustained the injury in last month's Autumn International against New Zealand and missed Saturday's 33-16 victory over Edinburgh as a result.

His absence from a consultation organised by the Welsh Rugby Union led to a delay in discovering the severity of the injury, and in a sharply worded statement, the Ospreys said: "The Ospreys were unfortunately not in a position to confirm the severity of the injury at an earlier date.

"This was despite it being flagged up by the WRU after Lee failed to attend a consultation with a specialist that had been arranged by the Union. He then failed to report to a scheduled screening on his return to the Ospreys.


"This meant the medical team were not in a position to effectively confirm a diagnosis of his injury status until late last week. On account of this, he was named in the initial match-day squad for the Edinburgh match until the severity of the issue became clear."

Disciplinary action is likely to follow, although forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys refused to divulge what, if any, punishments would be handed down to the controversial Welsh star.

"I'm not aware of any sanctions if they have been taken," said Humphreys. "The fact was, Lee had a hand injury and should have had a scan, but didn't. Therefore, it's being dealt with internally through Wales and through us.

"It's nothing more than that. There was a mix-up in communication from Lee's point of view in terms of a different number on a phone. But the blunt thing is, he's broken his thumb and he's out and he'll be out probably for the next six weeks.

"It is bad news, especially out there, where we are expecting an aerial battle. Lee's one of the best in the world in circumstances like that. But that's the way it goes. It's his misfortune, another person's good fortune."

Irish international Tommy Bowe is a likely contender to slot in for Byrne, although either Barry Davies or the versatile James Hook would seem to be more likely contenders.

"James Hook has played Test rugby at 15, Tommy Bowe played there the last time we were in Munster and was probably our best player, so we have lots of people to cover those positions," Humphreys said.

The turmoil has damaged the Welsh side, who have aspirations of toppling Munster in what could be the defining head-to-head clashes which take place on successive weekends.

"It's massive for both of us," added Humphreys. "If we are to have any hopes of topping the pool, we need to get something from this game. I'm sure Munster will be saying the same when they come over to Wales.

"I think this double-header will have a massive impact on the group. When you consider they are coming into form and we have strung together some victories, it could prove a deciding factor."

Irish Independent

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