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Stuart Lancaster: Tadhg Furlong must be fit to make European decider

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Tadhg Furlong during Leinster squad training at UCD. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Tadhg Furlong during Leinster squad training at UCD. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Tadhg Furlong during Leinster squad training at UCD. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Leinster will not risk Tadhg Furlong unless he is 100pc fit for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final against La Rochelle.

The Ireland tighthead is struggling with an ankle issue, as Leinster get set to make a decision on his availability today.

Senior coach Stuart Lancaster is optimistic that Furlong and James Lowe (shin) will be fit for the trip to Marseille, while Rónan Kelleher is back in training following his head injury.

“He’s got to be right,” Lancaster said of Furlong.

“Its very hard for a tighthead prop to go into a scrum if you are not right. He needs to be right. It’s position specific sometimes for these things but he has to be right to put him in because it will compromise our chances never mind Tadhg’s chances of doing well.”

Meanwhile, La Rochelle coach Ronan O’Gara will explore every possible avenue in a desperate attempt to allow his All Black scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow to feature in the Marseilles showpiece.

The 2015 World Cup winner revealed last week that he would miss six weeks after breaking his hand but O’Gara revealed that he is actively considering sourcing a hurling glove for his star player.

Springbok André Joubert famously used a hurling glove donated by an Irish doctor during his side’s 1995 World Cup win while Brian O’Driscoll also wore gloves in his early career, World Rugby regulations stipulate that glove wear cannot cover the entire hand.

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“He has two broken bones in his hand but I’m trying to see. I need to get some hurling advice and try and get one of those micro gloves.

“So we’ll see what we can do with that in terms of. I mean you’ve got to explore every possibility.

“Depending on his pain threshold, depending I suppose on his grip of the ball and depending on, well, the legality of it I think is okay. People have played with those hurling gloves in the past. We just have to wait and see with that.”

Although Will Skelton will feature after making a tentative cameo appearance last weekend, Kiwi flanker Victor Vito turned an ankle as he awaits his final game in La Rochelle colours.

“Victor is struggling with an ankle injury and he played 43 minutes in his final home game and had a kick-off reception and got his foot caught and someone fell on him in an awkward position,” added O’Gara.

“He is sore today and in a moon boot and he is in a massive race against time.”


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