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Saturday 21 October 2017

Moore not so merry as Leinster look again to anchorman Ross

Martin Moore has aggravated a shoulder injury that makes him an almost certain non-runner for Leinster's Rugby Champions Cup opener at home to Wasps next Sunday.

In addition, his participation for Ireland in the November internationals hangs in the balance as he waits on the results of yesterday's scans to his shoulder.

The immediate concern for Leinster coach Matt O'Connor is that tight-head prop Tadhg Furlong passed his return-to-play protocols last week only to pull up during the Captain's Rugby ahead of the Zebre match.

Once again, the weight of responsibility moves back onto the broad and experienced shoulders of Mike Ross for province, probably even for country.

While Ross has been viewed in some circles as a one-dimensional anchorman at the scrum, his ability to be trusted when the pressure is at its' greatest is what has marked his career for Harlequins, Leinster and Ireland.

O'Connor will probably have to rely on Ross against Wasps with Furlong expected to overcome any issues to provide back-up with Leinster's fourth choice tight-head Michael Bent also in the equation for the bench.

It was, perhaps, informative that O'Connor first called Kane Douglas ashore once Leinster moved into a 10-point lead at Zebre.

This triggered the introduction of to Devin Toner for a sharp 25 minute workout against Zebre with Mike McCarthy staying the course.

Common sense indicates McCarthy could be set for a spot on the bench with Douglas and Toner earmarked to start against Wasps.

FOLLOWED

The Australian international was closely followed by hooker Richardt Strauss and flanker Rhys Ruddock around the hour mark as the formation for the Champions Cup began to take shape.

It will be left to O'Connor and forwards coach Leo Cullen to calculate whether 40 minutes for Leinster A and one hour in the PRO12 is enough for Strauss.

There must be an element of doubt over this given how 21-year-old Bryan Byrne has already shown the appetite and attitude to compete.

It wasn't too long before centre Gordon D'Arcy, loose-head Jack McGrath and wing Zane Kirchner were also removed from the scene.

In an Ireland context, coach Joe Schmidt could have to contemplate November without Moore as the fire and brimstone South Africans come to Dublin on November 8.

They will be followed by the equally intimidating Georgia, at least in terms of scrummaging, on November 16 and Australia on November 22.

This means Schmidt could have to take a punt on in-form Connacht tight-heads Nathan White and/or Rodney Ah You with the latter holding the best conditioning of his career at the moment.

There is also Munster's Stephen Archer and Ulster's Declan Fitzpatrick to consider for Ireland.

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