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Leinster facing big selection calls despite the loss of Ringrose and O'Brien for Glasgow

Competition for places fierce in the backline, the back row and at loosehead where Cian Healy returns from suspension.

Joey Carbery returned to full-contact training with Leinster yesterday.
Joey Carbery returned to full-contact training with Leinster yesterday.

EVEN ALLOWING FOR an injury list which contains no fewer than seven internationals, Leo Cullen and the Leinster coaching team face a number of big selection calls ahead of their Champions Cup clash with Glasgow Warriors on Sunday [KO 1pm, Sky Sports].

The eastern province yesterday ruled Garry Ringrose (ankle), James Tracy (elbow) and Adam Byrne (knee) out of the round five clash at the RDS while it is ‘unlikely’ that Sean O’Brien will have recovered from hip stiffness to be available.

O’Brien, who said last week he was targeting Sunday’s game as his return date having been sidelined since the win over Exeter last month, visited a specialist yesterday and Leinster say they will provide a further update on his fitness on Friday pending the outcome of that assessment.

Stuart Lancaster downplayed concerns over the flanker’s fitness ahead of the Six Nations: “I don’t think the position has really changed. It’s a niggly hip injury which is a pretty important part of a back rower’s anatomy and if he’s struggling then we need to get it sorted for him really.”

Ringrose is, however, a serious doubt for Ireland’s championship campaign after undergoing ankle surgery yesterday. The 22-year-old, who is only just back from a five-month layoff, now faces another period of five to six weeks on the sidelines.

“Garry is actually very philosophical about it,” Lancaster said. “It’s not something that he could have controlled. He would have been frustrated with himself if it had been a soft tissue injury, where he hadn’t done his prep or warm-up work as well as he could have done. It’s just one of those things that happens in a contact sport like rugby. He’s quite philosophical.

“He’s in the meetings already and contributing, he had the operation yesterday and is here today so that’s typical Garry really. He’ll be back soon. He’ll miss this block but he’ll come back in the next block of Pro14 games and will still be there or thereabouts for the Six Nations.”

The timing of this latest injury setback, five games into his season and at the start of a crucial block of fixtures for both Leinster and Ireland, is cruel.

“It’s a shame for him but he’s a quality player and he definitely has youth on his side. He has a long career ahead of him. He was really beginning to find his feet again. It was just rotten luck.”

Garry Ringrose goes off injured Ringrose had an operation at the start of the week. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

There was slightly more positive news on Tadhg Furlong, although the prop is awaiting further assessment on an elbow problem sustained against Ulster and didn’t partake in the full squad session at Donnybrook yesterday. Nor did Richardt Strauss, Michael Bent, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Robbie Henshaw or Fergus McFadden.

Leinster are confident of having Furlong available for selection when Cullen names his team to face Glasgow on Friday lunchtime, but before then there will be a series of difficult selection meetings taking place.

Joey Carbery yesterday returned to full contact training and should he come through another session later in the week, is expected to be in contention again. That leaves Cullen with an array of options for the fullback position including the rejuvenated Rob Kearney, the in-form Jordan Larmour and Carbery.

James Lowe is also waiting to make his Champions Cup bow for Leinster having been added to the squad ahead of the round four fixture and is certainly pushing for inclusion, while Cian Healy’s return from suspension puts him in competition with Jack McGrath again.

The back row competition, as it always is, is fierce even with O’Brien, Rhys Ruddock and Jamie Heaslip on the sidelines.

“It’s a difficult one but we’re better off splitting it into a two-game selection because of the short turnaround,” Lancaster says. “Then we have to play in France [against Montpellier] on Saturday so the way in which we use the squad over the two games will be critical to our performances.

“As I said, there’s some difficult selection conversations but we don’t select in isolation. We need to select well for both games.”

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