Friday 18 January 2019

Lancaster plays down fears about growing ankle injury epidemic

Stuart Lancaster: Long-term thinking. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Stuart Lancaster: Long-term thinking. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster assistant coach Stuart Lancaster has said there is no ready explanation for the epidemic of ankle injuries which have afflicted the club this season, with Garry Ringrose the latest player to be laid up after undergoing surgery on Sunday.

Ringrose went under the knife for syndesmosis - or high ankle sprain - after being injured against Ulster last weekend, just as he was making a successful comeback from two shoulder surgeries.

A luckless break for the centre, he will now miss the rest of his side's European campaign as well as the first two matches of Ireland's Six Nations title tilt, where he would have partnered provincial colleague Rob Henshaw.

Already this season, Barry Daly, Isa Nacewa, Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy have suffered from the injury but an unruffled Lancaster maintains that advances in medical science in the professional game have heightened identification of an injury that would in the past have simply been ignored.

"When I played in the olden days, it's the type of injury you would have strapped up and just got through it," he says.

"Nowadays, if you don't have the operation early, it can cause trouble later on.

"The safest thing is to get it done. It's a short turnaround. There's more knowledge and awareness of what might happen if you don't get rehabbed properly. Take the pain now and benefit in the long run."

Daly took nine weeks to recover from his particular ankle problem but Lancaster is confident that Ringrose will make a speedier return.

"Garry has had the operation and it is similar to a few we've had this season. He'll certainly be unavailable for the European rounds to be sure, it's hard to put a definitive date on it. Five or six weeks is usually the timeline on those sorts of injuries.

"I actually spoke to him this morning. Garry is actually very philosophical about it. It's not something that he could have controlled. He would have been frustrated with himself if it had been a soft tissue injury, where he hadn't done his prep or warm-up work as well as he could have done.

"It's just one of those things that happens in a contact sport like rugby. He's quite philosophical. He's in the meetings already and contributing, he had the operation yesterday and is here today so that's typical Garry really.

"He'll be back soon. He'll miss this block but he'll come back in the next block of PRO14 games and will still be there or thereabouts for the Six Nations.

"It's a shame for him but he's a quality player and he definitely has youth on his side. He has a long career ahead of him but he was really beginning to find his feet again.

"We played to his strengths in the Ulster game where we got good defensive width which allowed him to make good defensive reads and get off the line.

"We also played with good intent on attack, got the ball to the edges and into his hands early. No matter whether you've been injured or haven't, if you're someone of Garry's talent, you want to get the ball into your hands early.

"And we did that better against Ulster than we did in previous games. It was just rotten luck. You saw the tackle, it wasn't anything to do with playing two games in a short turnaround."

Hooker James Tracy will also be out for a similar five- to six-week period after he suffered a dislocated elbow.

It limits Leinster's options against Glasgow Warriors in the position to Seán Cronin, Bryan Byrne and Richardt Strauss, thankfully recovered from a lower back injury.

It will also stifle Tracy's push for further Ireland honours in the Six Nations, ruling out games against France and Italy.

It comes as a cruel blow to the former Newbridge College loose-head prop, who began the transition to hooker on the advice of Joe Schmidt back in 2013.

He will see a specialist later in the week, while Adam Byrne's comeback from injury has suffered a setback after his knee flared up.

Lions prop Tadhg Furlong, who was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment at half-time of Saturday's game, also hyper-extended his left elbow and will be assessed later in the week.

Seán O'Brien is also now unlikely to be fit in time for Sunday's visit of Glasgow as he continues to manage hip soreness.

Rory O'Loughlin, Dan Leavy and Richardt Strauss are due back in training this week and are expected to be available for selection for this weekend.

Joey Carbery has returned to full contact training, James Ryan (ankle) continues to rehab while there was no update available on Rhys Ruddock (hamstring), James Heaslip (lower back) and Tom Daly (knee).

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