Luke Fitzgerald will play no further part in Leinster’s season after undergoing shoulder surgery on the weekend. However, the province are confident that he will be fit for the World Cup.
The 27-year-old winger is one of four Irish internationals who have undergone surgery recently with flanker Rhys Ruddock (arm), prop Marty Moore and hooker Sean Cronin (both shoulder) all requiring the need of a scalpel to deal with their injuries.
Forwards coach Leo Cullen yesterday revealed the news at the province’s camp in UCD: “Basically it’s a repair to [Luke’s] labarum, he suffered a bit of damage there.
“He only got it done at the weekend so it’s a bit early to say. We’ll find out more as the week goes on in terms of how long it might be. He will certainly be out for the next two weeks. I don’t think it’s a World Cup issue.”
When it came to uneasy tension between the national management and Leinster over player availability, Cullen did not add any more fuel to the fire. However, the former captain did admit that the province have struggled to handle the dynamics of the Guinness PRO12 which now plays a more significant role in Champions Cup qualification.
“It’s not the situation where we would have thought we would have found ourselves at the start of this season. But with meritocracy, there are so many different dimensions at play at this stage of the season, and thoroughout the season, which we probably haven’t got our head around in terms of managing our resources, I think it is fair to say,” said Cullen ahead of Friday’s game with Treviso where Leinster are chasing the points to ensure Champions Cup qualification.
Although Leinster are competing to safeguard their place at the table of Europe’s elite, it is the first season since 2005 where the province have not been competing for a trophy in the final game of the season.
However, whatever solutions will be borne out of a frustrating season for O’Connor’s team will struggle to make it off the whiteboard before November, given that Schmidt is likely to include over a dozen Leinster players in Ireland’s World Cup squad.
Facing such a shortfall in leadership and senior players for the opening six to eight weeks of the season means that it has been prudent to draw Nacewa out of retirement and Cullen believes that Gordon D’Arcy may yet play a valuable role, too if he fails to make the World Cup squad.
“Isa will bring a different dynamic,” added Cullen. “There is going to be a bit of an absence of leadership and experience even with the likes of a Gordon D’Arcy and Shane Jennings retiring as well. Again what Darce’s situation is we are not quite too sure. It’s going to be good to have a body like Isa.”
Such will be Leinster’s contribution to the national cause that Cullen didn’t close the door on further recruitment from abroad, but insisted that the IRFU would cast the deciding vote.
Flanker Jordi Murphy is likely to be absent from domestic duty come the autumn but he is well aware of the presence that players like D’Arcy (if available) and Nacewa will have on younger men who must lay the foundations for Leinster early next season.
“That’s the great thing about Leinster, that if you do need advice there’s always someone among the older lads who’s there for you, just because it happens to you for the first time doesn’t mean it’s the first time something like that has happened,” said Murphy.
“Isa was an invaluable member of the squad and I’m sure he will be again. He’s just a follow by example kind of guy, he’s one of those players who I can’t remember where he didn’t give it his all he was just outstanding. He trained incredibly hard and he played incredibly hard and that was obvious to see while he was here.”
As for opting for Nacewa’s services over any indigenous players from the Ulster Bank League Cullen pointed out that the province had already contracted Royce Burke-Flynn and Ian Hirst from Clontarf, albeit the pair are front rows.
In addition, this weekend’s Division 1A final between Clontarf and Lansdowne will be a showcase for Leinster academy players such as full back Cian Kelleher and centre Tom Farrell who may be called upon come September.
“We are constantly looking at the club scene and those guys are contracted for next year. We’ll look at the club game as closely as we possibly can and we will pick guys from there if they are deemed suitable,” he insisted.
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