Fitzgerald to miss Scarlets clash as Blues refuse to rush comeback
LUKE FITZGERALD was back on the rugby pitch yesterday but he won't be involved for Leinster against the Scarlets on Friday night.
The Ireland and Lions back has been struggling with a neck injury since Christmas and has not played since the win over Ulster on St Stephen's Day. He will undergo a 10-day conditioning programme along with Andrew Conway ahead of a planned return to action next weekend against Glasgow.
Fitzgerald's return has been delayed a number of times as the 24-year-old struggles to shake off the knock that has plagued him for almost two months.
"It is just one of those injuries that you can't rush," Leinster skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy explained. "If he comes back too early then it could put him out for longer.
"The key thing is to give him the time that is needed. It is one of those things that there isn't a time-frame on, so we can just monitor it. He's not a million miles away. He should probably be back next week."
Wing Conway and out-half Mat Berquist are both another week away from full recovery, while flanker Dominic Ryan suffered a calf setback before last week's win over Treviso, but should be available this week.
Second-row Damien Browne (shoulder) and wing Fionn Carr (eye) should recover in time, while Leinster are waiting to hear which of their Ireland squad members will be available after a number trained with them yesterday.
Murphy admitted that the refixing of Ireland's clash with France will affect the club's Heineken Cup preparations, with international players likely to miss the key league fixture with Munster after four weeks in a row with Ireland.
"I'm sure there will be a knock-on effect," he said. "If they play four weeks in a row, then they will come back in needing some down time."
One player who has taken his chance while the internationals are away is Ian Madigan, and Murphy, who works closely with the fly-half, has been impressed with his progress.
"There is no doubt he has stepped up this year. We are very happy with the way he is going," he said.
"There are parts of his game that need to be improved, but there are parts of his game that other out-halves just don't have. He's very strong, he's quick and he's well able to carry the ball.
"So it is a situation where a couple of months ago he probably wouldn't have been seen as a starter, but now we have options at 10."