McGrath in a boot as scrum-half faces race to be fit for Champions Cup semi-final

There is also continued uncertainty over Sean O’Brien’s return.

McGrath sustained the injury against Saracens last week.
McGrath sustained the injury against Saracens last week.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

LEINSTER ARE AGAIN sweating over the fitness of Luke McGrath after the scrum-half missed training this week and remains in a boot to support the ankle injury he sustained against Saracens.

McGrath hobbled off during the second half of Leinster’s Champions Cup quarter-final victory last weekend and must now be considered a major doubt for the semi-final clash with Scarlets on 21 April.

The Ireland international, who is only just back after missing most of the Six Nations with a knee problem, will hope to make a quick recovery, but Leo Cullen is unsure if McGrath will be able to return to training next week.

“He’s not too bad,” the Leinster head coach said this afternoon. “We’ll see how he goes next week, whether he starts running or not. He’s walking around in a boot at the moment, he hasn’t trained on the field this week.”

The availability of McGrath, the first-choice nine, is an important issue for Leinster given the three-into-two selection dilemma regarding their overseas signings which arose when he injured his knee against Scarlets in February.

Under Champions Cup and Pro14 regulations, Leinster are only allowed pick two of James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park and Scott Fardy in their matchday squad and McGrath’s absence would present Cullen and Stuart Lancaster with a major headache.

Nick McCarthy, who came off the bench against Saracens, hasn’t really inspired a lot of confidence, particularly if required to start such a high-profile game, meaning Leinster would have to select Gibson-Park and leave one of Lowe or Fardy out, the latter almost indispensable in the engine room.

The hope is that McGrath will make sufficient progress next week and even if he fails to recover in time for Pro14 fixture against Benetton Treviso, would be fit and available for Scarlets later this month.

As for Sean O’Brien, Cullen issued another no-update update this afternoon in regards to the flanker’s fitness, despite the player himself stating earlier this week that he hopes to be back for Treviso.

Sean O'Brien O'Brien has endured a frustrating couple of months with injury. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

After again being omitted from the team-sheet for tomorrow’s clash with Zebre, Cullen was asked if he was confident O’Brien would be back next week: “Confident? [Laughs] We’re hopeful.

“Seanie pushed incredibly hard to get back last week [for Saracens] and was involved in the rugby sessions that week. He pushed his shoulder to be fair.

“This week he trained more separate just to make sure he can get himself right so hopefully he’ll be in a position to actually play next week. We’ll see.”

Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Joey Carbery, Sean Cronin, Johnny Sexton, Jordi Murphy, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa and Fardy are among the players to have been given the week off to recharge the batteries.

Devin Toner captains Leinster at the RDS tomorrow afternoon [KO 2pm, TG4].

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