Monday 22 January 2018

Walking wounded create doubts for rematch

Hugh Farrelly

WITHOUT Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney, and with Brian O'Driscoll doubtful, yesterday's intensely physical defeat in Clermont has left Leinster with a fresh injury crisis ahead of next weekend's rematch in Lansdowne Road.

Jamie Heaslip was forced to retire just after half-time having sustained an early ankle injury in in the Stade Marcel Michelin, while the outstanding Sean O'Brien played on after a first-half blow that left him unsteady on his feet and needing extensive treatment.

However, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt is hopeful that both back-rowers will be fit for next weekend despite the fact that Heaslip was travelling home with a protective cast on his injured leg.

The next few days are being used to determine the extent of the injuries with O'Driscoll, ruled out with a jaw injury, scheduled to see a specialist tomorrow. "We are pretty low on a few injuries already and that has already put us under a bit of pressure," said Schmidt. "I wouldn't want to rule anybody out at this stage. It is very much a wait and see. Jamie took a stomp on his ankle and we're hopeful it will come right in the next few days," added Schmidt, who said O'Brien's fitness would be monitored closely also, stating that the flanker's injury "was nothing to do with his head".

Jonathan Sexton's two penalties and conversion of Shane Horgan's early try ensured Leinster grabbed a losing bonus point, which keeps them in control of Pool 2 and, though disappointed to lose, Schmidt believes the team will have drawn belief for the rematch.

"Sometimes you don't get what you set out to try and achieve and it is frustrating, but you can keep your head up when you try to your maximum," said Schmidt. Meanwhile, Schmidt's counterpart, and former Clermont colleague, Vern Cotter spiced things up next weekend's contest at the revamped Lansdowne Road when he said his players were peeved at Leinster's tactics.

"Some of our players felt that sometimes, almost... there was a lack of respect," said Cotter. "It will be an interesting battle next week. The players feel a little bit aggrieved at that, I think there was slowing the ball down and other tactics in place."

"We'll be asking questions before the next game, how it's going to be refereed. We will try and stick to our principles of playing."

Irish Independent

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