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Tuesday 26 September 2017

The Leinster forwards' backs are up against the wall in Lyon

Leinster prop Jack McGrath at squad training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Leinster prop Jack McGrath at squad training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

It must have been a horrendous day for Cian Healy.

On Wednesday, the Leinster and Ireland prop had to stomach his omission from The Lions tour to New Zealand at noon before heading into a disciplinary hearing to find out he would also miss out on The Champions Cup semi-final on Sunday.

Now, that is what you call a double-whammy. The list of three loose-heads in Warren Gatland's 41-man squad included his protégé Jack McGrath and his old English adversary Joe Marler.

Don't forget, Healy was short odds to be in The British & Irish Lions test team until extensive ankle ligament damage ruined his dream in 2013.

Healy began his hearing in Edinburgh in the evening for an incident of dangerous play at a ruck when he cleaned out Connacht flanker Sean O'Brien on 22 minutes.

The guilty verdict accrued a suspension of two weeks with no time off for good behaviour, based on past indiscretions, ending his interest in the semi-final against Clermont-Auvergne.

The decision has been taken not to appeal the punishment as it risks an increase in the ban as much as it does a decrease.

This left Leo Cullen with a serious problem to solve on the left-hand side of his front row.

The first foundation block of breaking open Clermont-Auvergne is set-piece stability.

It is not unusual for the durable McGrath to play out the full 80 minutes, doing so against Wasps in the Champions Cup quarter-final at the beginning of the month.

Monster

However, the prospect of doing so against the monster Clermont pack is enough to make most men buckle at the knees, especially when the match is expected to go right to the wire.

Leinster find out at noon whether Les Jaunards front rowers Benjamin Kayser and Davit Zirakashvili have succumbed to injury. This will ease the pressure somewhat, if it is so. The removal of Healy places a burden on the next man up.

This would seem to be Offaly man Peter Dooley.

Edward Byrne has just returned from the latest in a line of horrendous injuries.

Andrew Porter is currently undergoing a transformation from loose-head to tight-head prop.

There is the possibility of moving Michael Bent in there and Mike Ross coming onto the bench.

However, Cullen and Stuart Lancaster have shown faith in the young guns and Dooley, just 22, has played 14 times this season, six from the start, just not in Europe.

It is sure to be a hostile atmosphere in Lyon on Sunday in which the inexperienced men will either flourish or perish.

The time has come to find out how Leinster cope when their backs are right up against the wall.

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