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Leinster face 'non-European player' headache again after McCarthy breaks wrist

The scrum-half suffered the injury in training last week.

LEINSTER FACE ANOTHER selection riddle ahead of the start of their Guinness Pro14 and Champions Cup title defences after scrum-half Nick McCarthy broke his wrist in training last week, The42 understands.

Nick McCarthy McCarthy's lay-off has wider implications for the Leinster squad. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The 23-year-old could miss the start of the new season and his injury has wider implications for Leo Cullen’s squad, with Pro14 and EPCR regulations around ‘non-European players’ set to become an issue for the province again.

McCarthy was able to take some part in squad training on Monday afternoon with the aid of a wrist support, and Leinster will hope his recovery is quick to avoid a repeat of the selection dilemmas they faced last season.

Each club are only permitted to include two non-European players in their matchday 23, a ruling which meant James Lowe unluckily missed out on being involved in Leinster’s run to European glory last term after Luke McGrath’s availability was compromised by knee and ankle problems.

And McCarthy’s absence could present Cullen with a similar headache for the opening stages of the 2018/19 campaign, as Kiwi Jamison Gibson-Park will be required every week unless Leinster delve deeper into their academy resources.

McGrath starts Friday’s season-opener against Cardiff Blues, with Gibson-Park named on the bench, meaning Lowe is again the unfortunate player to miss out due to Scott Fardy’s selection in the Leinster second row.

Australian Joe Tomane — a summer arrival from Montpellier — is a Samoan passport holder so is exempt from the ruling, as was the case with the now-retired Isa Nacewa who had a Fijian passport. 

McCarthy, who started the pre-season friendly against Montauban, made 21 appearances for the province last term, including second-half cameos off the bench in the Champions Cup quarter and semi-final wins over Saracens and Scarlets and the Pro14 final defeat of the Welsh region.

Adam Radwan with Luke McGrath McGrath starts for Leinster on Friday. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

While the former St Michael’s College man remains third-choice behind McGrath and Gibson-Park, news of his injury comes as a setback Cullen and his coaching staff would have wanted to avoid given its knock-on effects. 

The alternative is to turn to one of the academy scrum-halves to provide bench cover for McGrath in the opening weeks of the season, with former Blackrock College nine Patrick Patterson and Ireland U20 scrum-half Hugh O’Sullivan providing the options.

Leinster begin their Pro14 title defence with back-to-back away games in Wales, before welcoming the Dragons and Edinburgh to the RDS in September.

After the round five and six inter-pros against Connacht (A) and Munster (H), Cullen’s side open their European campaign with a Pool 1 clash against Wasps at the RDS on Friday 12 October.

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Ryan Bailey

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