Wednesday 13 December 2017

Roux injury lay-off leaves Schmidt down to bare bones in second-row

Leinster Head Coach Joe Schmidt
Leinster Head Coach Joe Schmidt
David Kelly

David Kelly

What one hand giveth, the other taketh away.

Just as Joe Schmidt is rapping about Leinster's endless resources in the front-row – the club put out their third and fourth-choice front-rows in two matches last Friday, the Pro12 clash in Glasgow and the 'A' game – he is bemoaning the latest ill luck to strike his second-row resources.

With the now seemingly annual joust with French giants Clermont looming in the Heineken Cup, the confirmation of a devastating injury to South African import Quinn Roux throws a singularly dark cloud over Leinster's preparations.

Following on from fellow South African Steven Sykes' short-lived and unsuccessful sojourn last term, Leinster don't even have the option of turning to the irrepressible Brad Thorn once again.

"No, we've had no luck with our South Africans," Schmidt grimaces as the wind whips through their all-weather base in UCD. "And Thornie's already signed with the Highlanders so there's no going there."

After previously damaging a collarbone earlier this campaign, the dislocated shoulder sustained by Roux could not have happened at a less propitious time for the back-to-back European champions, although Tom Denton continued his recuperation from injury in last Friday's 'A' team stroll in Connacht.

"It is a concern," says Schmidt of the second-row conundrum, which could yet see the club move for Connacht's Mike McCarthy when his contract expires this summer.

"The injury is very unlucky. This could happen to any player at any time. He's a 21-year-old kid who's a very, very good athlete and very strong. Unfortunately he landed awkwardly.

"We thought that with Tom and Quinn coming in this year – they are both young men who I think have got futures in the game – that that would alleviate the problem to a degree.

"We've got Devin Toner who goes really well for us and a couple of really experienced players in Damian Browne and obviously our skipper Leo Cullen.

"But with Tom getting injured and Brownie having a knock and then on top of that you lose Quinn, you don't have to be a mathematician to work out that five minus three is uncomfortable.

"At the same time we've got Brownie back on the field and we've got Denton back from injury.

"And I don't know if you kept an eye on him on Friday, but I thought Leo trucked around pretty well, the spring chicken that he is. He's still got a bit of life in those legs yet."

With his first-choice brace of front-row pairings away on international duty, Schmidt was at least pleased with how his resources there stepped up to the challenge of a Pro12 outing in Glasgow and the 'A' game success.

And, with a trio of international frontliners set to return in the new year – Luke Fitzgerald, Brian O'Driscoll and Rob Kearney – buttressing the impact of Isa Nacewa and Sean O'Brien's comebacks last week, the positives outweigh the negatives as the Leinster coach seeks to fuse his returning Irish stars with the stalwarts.

"It is a balancing act," says Schmidt, who is unlikely to feature any of the Irish internationals who completed a heavy workload during the November series.

"There are probably some guys who have had a fair bit of rugby and who could do with a rest.

"But there is one of them who rang me last Friday and Sunday, so before and after the Ireland game, just to remind me that he was very keen to play against Zebre if that was possible.

"There are guys who are very keen to be integrated straight away and the sooner we do that the better because we will get a bit more continuity.

"All of the guys have returned in really good shape, a couple are a little bit tired and couple a bit red-eyed, although I wouldn't count that as an injury, it is well deserved.

"It is great to get them back in a good head space as well and in a really positive frame of mind."

Irish Independent

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