Injuries hit every team hard — except Leinster

The Ulster website offered a taster of how the other province lives on Monday, with the club about to send out a welcome update to their fans ahead of a huge week of European rugby.

Injuries hit every team hard — except Leinster

“There are no fresh injury concerns following Friday’s bonus-point win over Munster.”

The Ulster website offered a taster of how the other province lives on Monday, with the club about to send out a welcome update to their fans ahead of a huge week of European rugby.

How Leo Cullen, Andy Friend, and, especially, Johann van Graan wishes his media team could tap out the same news.

Instead, Munster had to send out two — in the space of 90 minutes.

Initially a ‘squad update’ was filed, with Tadhg Beirne’s ankle surgery ruling him out of the trip to Paris, with JJ Hanrahan and Tommy O’Donnell both ‘rehabbing well’ after their hamstring injuries against Leinster.

A dose of cramp took Niall Scannell out of the Ulster defeat but he was at least back training, while Fineen Wycherley’s failed HIA in Belfast ensures he’ll be closely monitored.

There was more: Andrew Conway, who had been removed at half-time in Kingspan Stadium with a neck injury, was said to be a ‘precautionary’ move, and he, too, would be ‘reviewed’ as the week progressed.

Kevin O’Byrne, Rhys Marshall, and Darren Sweetnam would all return to training this week, they offered up as a morsel of good news, before the final kicker reminded fans that Tyler Bleyendaal (neck, that cursed neck) is still out, as is Ciarán Parker and Brian Scott.

Bad enough, but it would get worse and very quickly.

A story broke online that Joey Carbery had broken his arm in training and was set to be ruled out of action and quickly media scampered to confirm the scoop. It wasn’t quite accurate as we’d soon find out, but there was more than enough truth when it came to its impact.

And 92 minutes after the initial update, with no mention of the former Leinster out-half, a ‘Player News’ email was sent out.

“Following on from the earlier squad update, the medical department have confirmed that Joey Carbery underwent a scan for a wrist injury sustained against Ulster on Friday night at the Kingspan,” it read, before delivering the devilish detail.

“It has been confirmed the out-half sustained a wrist ligament injury and requires surgery, ruling him out for the immediate future.”

The “immediate future” was always likely to demand further interrogation and by now we all know Carbery’s season could be over — 103 minutes after it began.

When the former Athy youngster made the decision to move south almost 17 months ago, the point was game time. As things stand, he could finish his two seasons with 17 appearances — five fewer than his breakthrough 2016-17 season at the RDS.

It’s a cruel twist for Munster that Ian Keatley and Bill Johnston, two talented out-halves allowed to leave in recent times, will likely be involved in Europe this weekend, while they sweat on the potential fitness of JJ Hanrahan, with Ireland U20 starlet Ben Healy, and centre Rory Scannell the next in line for the No10 shirt.

“I don’t want to speculate on it too much, hopefully we’ll have JJ,” said van Graan, admitting the obvious.

“But that’s what sport is about. If [Healy] gets that opportunity, that’s just the way sport works. It’s an opportunity for somebody to do something great.”

Van Graan was right to put a brave face on his predicament, but dropping a raw talent like Healy into a big game is one thing, plunging him into the U arena is far from ideal.

If Munster want to look for positives, it’s this kind of exposure that has made Leinster the team they are. Johnny Sexton and the seemingly indestructible James Ryan may miss Sunday’s visit of Lyon, but there’s no stress at a club that has built a squad to last.

“There is not many like-for-like for [Ryan] but in here anyone can be changed out and you are having a top-end performer coming in so we have the ability to lose a player or two and someone step in and that other lad getting an opportunity,” said Cian Healy this week.

“People get opportunities here and that is why performances and standards are going up higher because everyone is within reach of having a shot at European rugby or PRO14.”

But not every club has the resources and pool Leinster have, and if you pity Munster then cry harder for Connacht. They needed to draft in almost ten academy players ahead of their trip to Leinster (a 54-7 hammering), with almost 20 players on the sick list.

Luckily a handful will return for this weekend’s visit of Toulouse, but Friend is putting a brave face on yet another injury crisis. “I’m not worried because we have a lot of fight and character in the group,” he said.

“We’ve been working with 26 players for the last three or four weeks and it is about churning them out and using them the best we can and getting a performance that we can. It’s a real fine line. You don’t come into this job if you’re not a competitor but there comes a time though when the reality hits and you have to look after a few players.”

Andy knows, so, to his frustration, does Johann.

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