Thursday 23 November 2017

Ongoing injury nightmare may force Munster star Johnny Holland to retire at 25

Johnny Holland: ‘A total professional’. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Johnny Holland: ‘A total professional’. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Munster outhalf Johnny Holland is understood to be close to retiring because of a hamstring injury dating back to November 2014. A final decision is expected this week for a player who will be 25 on Tuesday, and was favourite to start the season in pole position.

Rassie Erasmus, Munster's new coach, says he is in regular contact with IRFU performance director David Nucifora about getting cover at 10 and 13 where the team have critical issues. Kiwi Francis Saili will be out until Christmas after a shoulder surgery at the end of last season needed a follow-up operation.

Saili's compatriot Tyler Bleyendaal successfully came through 52 minutes of Munster's win over Worcester on Friday night, but that was only his fourth start since arriving late to the province - because of a serious neck injury - last summer. When he got over the neck injury he developed an ongoing quad complaint.

Holland initially sustained the injury almost two years ago playing for a Munster Development side, when he tore his hamstring off the bone. He recovered to a point where last season he edged out Ian Keatley as the starting 10, being selected as first choice against Leinster in April. He played seven times for Munster last season and 11 in all, having debuted in 2013.

"People wondered why he was taken off after 60 minutes that night against Leinster when he was going so well, but it was a case of managing him," a Munster source said yesterday. "He started pre- season okay, but the problem hadn't gone away. If it's the end for him it would be cruel because he's been really disciplined, and he'd be recognised in the squad as a total professional."

It is unclear if the number of detached hamstring injuries is higher in Ireland than elsewhere, but along with Holland the casualty list in the professional game includes Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy, Seán O'Brien, Paul O'Connell and Iain Henderson.

"The IRFU, in conjunction with the provincial medical teams, has examined the injury mechanic in each case and the players' medical histories as well as a number of other related markers," Rod McLoughlin, the union's medical director, said yesterday.

"A meeting involving all IRFU and provincial medical and sports science stakeholders is scheduled for the coming weeks to discuss the implementation of preventative measures and strategies, and international research partnerships in this area."

The (English) RFU was the first union in this part of the world to produce comprehensive injury data. Based on information from training and playing in the Premiership, it records hamstring tears as the most common training ground injury - concussion tops the charts on match days - but doesn't make any finding on an increase, or otherwise, of injuries that require reattachment.

"We're not aware of any related trend in England," a spokesperson for the RFU said yesterday.

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