Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor will have to play out the final stages of Champions Cup pool qualifying without Ireland loose head prop Jack McGrath after the province decided not to appeal his three-week suspension.
McGrath will miss the remaining Pool 2 games in Europe, starting with Saturday’s visit of Castres to the RDS, having been banned last week for a stamp on Rory Best during the Guinness Pro12 win over Ulster on January 3.
The Leinster management, who are waiting for fellow Test loosehead Cian Healy to make a full recovery from a serious hamstring injury, had considered appealing the suspension in an effort to have McGrath available to face Castres and Wasps over the next two weekends and had to weigh up a potential increase to the ban as an alternative consequence of such an appeal.
That outcome would have also impacted on Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations title defence, which begins on February 7 in Italy but O’Connor and his backroom team provided national boss Joe Schmidt with one less headache when they decided not to contest.
“After considering all the options and taken considerable advice, including legal, Leinster Rugby confirmed they will not be appealing the decision by the Guinness Pro12 disciplinary committee to suspend Jack McGrath for three weeks,” a Leinster statement read last night.
“The matter is now at an end and Leinster Rugby will be making no further comment.”
The Blues are waiting on Healy to make his comeback after four months on the sidelines, with forwards coach Leo Cullen not ruling out a return this weekend, but admitting the Lions prop was “probably a little bit off” making his first appearance since his hamstring tore off the bone in September.
O’Connor will most likely continue with Michael Bent at loose head as Leinster bid to home in on a quarter-final place, with a victory over a French side already without hope of reaching the last eight. Bent has featured in each of the province’s last five matches, starting four of them, including last weekend’s Pro12 win at Cardiff Blues.
That win saw Cardiff lock Jarrod Hoeata sent off for a dangerous tackle on Rob Kearney, for which the New Zealander yesterday received a six-week suspension.
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