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'I buried a nice shot on Dougie Howlett and broke the shoulder internally'

Luke Fitzgerald is on the comeback trail but expects to be fit for Ireland’s World Cup warm-ups.

THIS INJURY WAS a little different to the norm for Luke Fitzgerald.

We’ve become used to the Leinster and Ireland wing being cut down cruelly just as he looks to be returning to somewhere near his peak. While there is an element of misfortunate in this one, it’s a much more managed situation than usual.

Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald and Sean O'Brien Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan and Sean O'Brien this afternoon launched the new IRFU Canterbury training wear. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Essentially, Fitzgerald had been carrying a labral issue in his left shoulder since 2011, an injury not severe enough to force him to go under the knife until a heavy knock against Toulon in this season’s Champions Cup semi-final worsened the problem.

Carrying injuries is part and parcel of the game, but when Fitzgerald realised his shoulder wasn’t right a week later against Ulster, swift action was taken with the looming Rugby World Cup in mind.

The expertise of Hannan Mullet at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry was called on, and Fitzgerald had the issue remedied. All going well, he will be back in time for Ireland’s opening World Cup warm-up clash against Wales on 8 August in Cardiff.

“It was a labral tear and when he was in there he decided he’d do the bicep as well, the bicep tendon. So it seems to be par for the course these days during the off-season to get the shoulder done,” said Fitzgerald in reference to Leinster teammates Sean Cronin and Marty Moore.

“Obviously I was disappointed I couldn’t help out in the last two games with Leinster, they were pretty critical ones for us. I know we were under a little bit of pressure so it was a pain not being able to help out there.

“It was an easy enough decision time-wise in terms of being available for that first [World Cup] warm-up game, if I’m in the squad. An easy enough decision and I was happy to get it done, it’s been a longstanding issue.”

Players playing through the pain is an accepted part of professional sport, something Fitzgerald alludes to when explaining exactly how ‘longstanding’ an issue his labrum injury was.

Luke Fitzgerald Fitzgerald was superb in the final day Six Nations win over Scotland this year. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A former All Black and Munster legend was at the root of Fitzgerald’s problems.

“These kind of things are kind of par for the course and lots of guys play with a sore shoulder or a labral tear,” said Fitzgerald.

“It’s just a case of when it gets to a point where there’s instability, that’s the point where you ask, ‘do I need to get this sorted now or can it wait?’ I was able to wait like five or six years before I got it done.

I hurt it tackling Dougie Howlett in 2011 in the Pro12 final. I had a nice shot on him and buried it, broke the bone, broke it internally, so it’s really bad bone bruising. I tore the labrum that day, but loads of people play on with those things.

“I suppose mine just got to a point where I got a small little extra tear, probably due to the instability from having that thing. I just said, ‘Look, I need to go get this sorted out.’”

Fitzgerald jokes that Ireland physio James Allen is probably “hating me” as he will be force to remain here in June to work with the Leinster wing and the other rehabbing international players.

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The sacrifices for physio and players are pretty small though, according to Fitzgerald, with a World Cup in view. The 27-year-old is intently focused on that first pre-tournament fixture with Warren Gatland’s Wales.

Luke Fitzgerald supported by Ronan O'Gara Fitzgerald missed out on selection in the 2011 30-man World Cup squad. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“The warm-up games are obviously going to be very important for the whole squad and I’m expecting to be available for that first one and that’s the hope,” said Fitzgerald.

You obviously want to give yourself as many opportunities as you can to be in the shop window for Joe to pick you to go on the [World Cup] trip.

“I suppose I’ve a good body of work done this season, even though there’s a good bit of competition, so I’m pretty happy with the body of work I’ve done and standing over that, I feel like I’m in a good position going in as long as I can train and play to my full potential with this injury.

“It’s just a matter of keeping the head down and staying focused on the rehab now.”

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Canterbury, the official kit supplier to the Irish Rugby Football Union, today unveiled the official range of training wear that will be worn by the Irish rugby team throughout the 2015 Rugby World Cup and beyond.

Available from www.Canterbury.com, shop.irishrugby.ie and in stores nationwide, Canterbury’s new training product gives the fans a first glimpse of Ireland’s official RWC performance range.

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Murray Kinsella

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