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Ruddock emerges as injury concern for Leinster's Champions Cup final

The flanker suffered a head knock against Ulster and experienced a relapse before last weekend’s semi-final.

LEINSTER’S BACK ROW resources for their double trophy tilt could be stretched further after Rhys Ruddock emerged as an injury doubt for the province’s Heineken Champions Cup final against Saracens.

The flanker was a late withdrawal from last weekend’s semi-final win over Toulouse after feeling unwell on the eve of the game, and will now be monitored by Leinster’s medics this week. 

Rhys Ruddock with Kieran Treadwell Ruddock is a doubt for Newcastle. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ruddock sustained a head knock in the European quarter-final win over Ulster at the end of last month and despite coming through the return to play protocols, suffered a relapse after Saturday’s captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium.

The Ireland international was pulled from Leo Cullen’s starting XV with Scott Fardy promoted off the bench to start at blindside for the victory over Toulouse.

Ruddock has been ruled out of this weekend’s Guinness Pro14 trip to Ulster and there is concern over his fitness for the 11 May decider against Saracens at St James’ Park, particularly when Leinster have already lost flankers Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy to season-ending injuries.

“There was an original head knock against Ulster,” scrum coach John Fogarty explained.

“And he wasn’t feeling quite right and the lads are unbelievably strict with all that stuff. When he said he wasn’t feeling great, him not feeling right, the type of game that it was, you couldn’t put him out in it. You saw the physicality of the game. You just couldn’t put him out there. He’s in that return to play protocols. We’ll see how he goes.”

Ruddock has now re-entered the graduated return to play protocols and Leinster will hope he makes a full recovery in time for next month’s European showdown in Newcastle, given their back row options have already been hit in recent times.

Fardy played at six during the knockout stages of last year’s competition as Leinster won their fourth star in Bilbao and showed his enduring quality deputising for Ruddock at the weekend. 

But with the Saturday’s clash against Ulster, the Champions Cup final, Pro14 semi-final and a potential Pro14 decider to come over the next month, Leo Cullen will pray there are no more back row injuries to contend with.

“Rhys isn’t someone who has had a huge amount of head knocks,” Fogarty continued.

It’s going to affect people in different ways, he’s not feeling quite right. There is nothing sinister behind the scenes, he really isn’t feeling 100%. You can’t put the guy out there if he’s not feeling 100%. He’ll hopefully get himself right, this next few weeks are going to be epic.

Leinster are also anxiously waiting to discover the extent of the calf injury sustained by Seán Cronin, who limped off during the first half last Sunday.

“He’s been assessed, we’ll see how it goes,” Fogarty added. “He’s a pretty important person, he’s out for this week and then we’ve a prep week and then we play.

“It’s important that he gets back but we’re not quite sure yet.

“This time of year, our medical department is more stressed than anyone. There is pressure on to get them [injured players] back and it’ll be an interesting two weeks for us as a group to get ourselves in a good position. It starts this week with performing well up in Ulster.”

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Ryan Bailey

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