Sunday 18 February 2018

Aki a worry as Connacht injury crisis worsens

Connacht's Bundee Aki's ankle injuryadds to Pat Lam's worries ahead of Friday’s Challenge Cup clash with Newcastle Falcons
Connacht's Bundee Aki's ankle injuryadds to Pat Lam's worries ahead of Friday’s Challenge Cup clash with Newcastle Falcons

Declan Rooney

Connacht coach Pat Lam is hopeful that Bundee Aki can recover from an ankle injury in time for Friday's Challenge Cup clash with Newcastle Falcons, amid a growing injury crisis at the Sportsground.

Aki sustained the ankle injury in the closing stages of last Friday's Pro12 defeat to Cardiff, a game that put further pressure on Connacht's overworked medical staff.

Darragh Leader (hand) and Quinn Roux (ankle) both picked up injuries at the Arms Park that will ruled them out until well into the new year, while Eoin McKeon faces four weeks out with a torn elbow ligament.

Second-row Ben Marshall re-fractured his arm in training and is expected to miss three months.

Along with Aki, John Muldoon (calf) and Ronan Loughney (back) all sat out training, but with just nine fit backs left in his European squad, Lam could do with Aki proving his fitness.

"He rolled his ankle. It's all about the swelling. Hopefully it will come down," said Lam.

The Cardiff defeat took its toll elsewhere as an ankle injury to Ian Porter and concussion for fellow No 9 Kieran Marmion, forced winger Matt Healy to play scrum-half for most of the second half.

Both players are fighting to be fit for Newcastle - John Cooney is already out for three months after shoulder surgery, which leaves Caolin Blade as the only fit European-registered scrum-half.

Connacht have to play this weekend without 18 of the squad they registered for the Challenge Cup and have called up Shane O'Leary as emergency cover.

Goalkicker Craig Ronaldson only lasted eight minutes in Cardiff before being forced off with concussion, while hooker Tom McCartney (hamstring) is not expected back until January.

"At this stage we only have 23 of our 41-man original European squad fit and available," said Lam. "So we have just put in an application to change Nepia Fox-Matamua to bring in Shane O'Leary. He can cover a few areas in the backs which we need.

"We are going to have to use people like Dave Heffernan (hooker) to cover the back-row and Matt Healy to try and cover the No 9 role.

"So it's a lengthy list, but we just have to deal with it. I'm hopeful for all of these guys, but at the end of the day we've got to prepare like they won't be there.

"But everything we've done is on the back of training. When we don't have guys, that has a big impact on the preparation."

Irish Independent

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