Thursday 5 December 2019

Schmidt scare as O'Driscoll and Kearney ruled out

Hugh Farrelly

LEINSTER suffered a major fright yesterday when Brian O'Driscoll and Rob Kearney were ruled out of tonight's Pro12 semi-final against Glasgow at the RDS -- but remain hopeful that the Ireland and Lions pair will be able to line out in next weekend's Heineken Cup final.

O'Driscoll has picked up a knee injury, while Kearney has a back problem, both of which Leinster described as "niggles" yesterday. But with the Twickenham clash against Ulster just seven days away, it is worrying news for coach Joe Schmidt as he goes in search of back-to-back European titles.

The two were ruled out after yesterday's captain's run, although there are indications the injuries may have been sustained prior to that, with O'Driscoll believed to have twisted his knee.

With Ireland's first Test of their three-match series against the All Blacks less than a month away, national coach Declan Kidney will also be anxiously awaiting medical updates on the pair next week.

Ireland are already without other 2009 Grand Slam-winners Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, David Wallace, Denis Leamy and, in all probability, Paul O'Connell and need world-class performers like Kearney and O'Driscoll to compete with the world champions.

However, there was good news for Kidney yesterday with confirmation that forwards coach Gert Smal will travel, having recovered from the illness that seriously affected his eyesight and ruled him out of the majority of the Six Nations.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to working with the players," said Smal. "It was a worrying time, but we needed to get to the bottom of what was going on and I was advised to take some rest. I'm feeling really good and fit at the moment and looking forward to New Zealand."

Ireland confirmed they will announce their squad to tour New Zealand on Monday, May 21, and will name a preliminary squad next Monday for the warm-up clash with the Barbarians on May 29.

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