Leinster’s much vaunted strength in depth is about to undergo serious questioning. Last week’s loss to the Scarlets has taken its toll on Leinster.
The reigning European champions left Wales with no points and a mounting injury list. Joe Schmidt revealed that they have suffered a number of serious injuries to key players and with cover scarce in some positions the European champions are down to the bare bones for their first home game of the season against the Dragons tomorrow night.
“The Scarlets result wasn’t great for us on the scoreboard but it was probably even more damaging on the injury front. Unfortunately Isaac Boss has a medial ligament tear in his elbow and he will be out for six to eight weeks.
Dominic Ryan has a ligament rupture just in the front of his ankle. The rear ligament is till intact so that’s a good sign but he will be ten, maybe twelve weeks out of the game which is really disappointing for Leinsters, particularly in the light of Sean Cronin being unavailable in the long term and Kevin McLaughlin and Jamie Heaslip being unavailable this weekend. Losing Dominic as well does put pressure on our loose forward resources,” he explained.
Schmidt hopes that his team can use their disappointment at the loss to the Scarlets to fuel their drive for victory tomorrow and help compensate for the loss of important players. The team have put last weekend behind them and have been going well in training this week, as they look to get their first league points of the season tomorrow evening in the RDS.
“I certainly hope we can cope well with the injuries tomorrow. I do know that there is a fair bit of resolve in the group. I think there is a lot of disappointment that has hopefully dissipated by now and turned into a steely resolve about what we need to make sure we get right tomorrow. The players have trained really well this week but they need to put that into two really competitive 40 minute periods,” Schmidt added.
In recent seasons Leinster have proven to be at their most vulnerable early in the league season. Tomorrow is their first home game of the season and Schmidt is keen to avoid a repeat of the pattern that has emerged over the last couple of years.
Schmidt said: “We are very conscious that we lost against Glasgow early last season. We lost two of our first three games last year, we lost three of our first four games the year before. It is the period of time that teams know we are vulnerable and I don’t think you have to be a mathematician to add all those players up to get over 20 players who will be unavailable for us.”
Leinster’s mounting injury crisis coupled with the unavailability of the Irish internationals means that Schmidt is relying on his younger players to carry the province’s hopes but revitalizing them after the demoralizing defeat in Wales last weekend requires a delicate use of his management skills.
He continued: “At the same time we have a lot of faith in our younger players. There were a few harsh realties that were spelled out to them with that 45 -20 score line at the Scarlets. It’s a balance between getting them back on the field and stirring them up a bit and at the same time keeping enough confidence amongst them that they are still going to be pretty positive in the manner they put the game together on Saturday.”
Looking ahead to the clash with the Dragons, Leinster’s coach spies threats across the field but the pace and power of the Welsh region’s back three could inflict damage on Leinster.
“I think they’ve got a couple of really good guys in and they’ve kept some good guys as well. I think Dan Evans has started really well for them and he’s a good long left footed kicker. They’ve got young Prydie there as well now who has also got a cap for Wales so the back three have all been capped. For a Dragons side that’s a pretty good back three. They have a very strong loose forward trio and Dan Lidiate might be out with a sternum injury but I don’t think that will diminish the force there.”