Friday 15 December 2017

Leinster wait on Fitzgerald's shoulder as Cullen manages Blues' hectic schedule ahead

Leinster’s Luke Fitzgerald
Leinster’s Luke Fitzgerald

The extent of Luke Fitzgerald's shoulder injury that forced him off against Zebre on Sunday will be revealed sometime today.

"Luke got a bang on the shoulder," said Leinster coach Leo Cullen.

"He's just being assessed. There is a short turnaround with The Scarlets on Friday.

"It is likely we won't play him."

Anything near the neck or groin areas raise unusually concerning questions given Fitzgerald's troubled history with serious injury.

On the face of it, it looked like the wing/centre suffered a stinger in Italy.

"He's clearly had a few problems with his neck in the past. He had a long lay-off with that neck before. We wouldn't take any risks with him."

"With Lukey, I'll get the medics update this evening, make a few calls based on what's good for the group," he said yesterday.

Cullen was also happy to clear up immediate concerns over the fact Jonathan Sexton did not resume place-kicking duties when returning from his yellow card. "He had a chest (complaint) before the game, coughing and spluttering," he said.


"When he went off for 10 minutes, he had cooled down and there was a kick pretty soon after that."

The big pressure games are coming hot and fast as the rest of Ireland's internationals return this week. Cullen is keen to reduce the risk of agitating the adductor problem that interrupted Sexton's World Cup.

"Yeah, that was part of the logic," he said. "Because he cooled down for ten minutes rather than risk anything, it was better to be cautious."

Sexton has returned to Leinster with increased knowledge of the French Top-14 which could turn out to be crucial this season given the presence of Toulon in their Champions Cup pool.

"He's got so much experience. The two years away has been really good for him as well in terms of seeing different environments.

"He was always incredibly passionate about Leinster rugby. He's very driven. He's fitted seamlessly back into the group. It's great to have him back."

For all the chat about Sexton's difficulties in understanding the French mentality at Racing Metro, his time there is only wasted if he doesn't learn from it.

"He is probably more analytical of the bigger picture, the preparation not just on the field, but the various things we do off the field. He's had a different view of that in a different country. Like anywhere, there's always the perception of what's good and what's bad and what works.

"He's been around the Top-14 and seen all those other teams up close. All the experience is invaluable to the group."

Cullen is sensitive to the super-intensive period of rugby in the months ahead.

"We've a lot of big games coming up," he said.

"Scarlets on Friday, who are 100 per cent in the League, two European games, then Ulster, then Glasgow, then Toulon away and home, then Munster and Connacht, then back into Europe, The Ospreys and back into Europe again.

"It is a pretty hectic schedule."

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