Ham­strung Best and Kearney in race to be fit for Novem­ber tests

Irish Independent - - SPORT - Ruaidhri O’Con­nor

ROB KEARNEY and Rory Best are in a race to be fit for Ire­land’s Novem­ber in­ter­na­tion­als as the pair re­cover from ham­string in­juries.

Le­in­ster coach Leo Cullen yes­ter­day re­vealed that Kearney would be out for six to eight weeks, while Best ap­peared on crutches at Ul­ster’s Kingspan Sta­dium ahead of last night’s clash with Scar­lets and is await­ing the re­sults of a scan that could rule him out for a sim­i­lar stretch.

Full-back Kearney tore his ham­string in the prov­ince’s win over Cardiff Blues last week, while Best suf­fered his in­jury in train­ing on Thurs­day.

The Ire­land skip­per, who has yet to re­turn to ac­tion, will learn his fate over the week­end when he gets his scan re­sults back.

Although Cullen said scans re­vealed that Kearney’s in­jury is not on the more se­ri­ous end of the scale, he ad­mit­ted Kearney’s his­tory of trou­ble­some mus­cle is­sues would see them err on the side of cau­tion rather than rush him back into ac­tion.

The in­jury ruled the 31-yearold Louth­man (right) out of Le­in­ster’s two-match mini-tour of South Africa which kicks off this af­ter­noon in Port El­iz­a­beth and will mean he misses next month’s in­ter­provin­cial derby against Mun­ster and the open­ing two rounds of the Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup against Mont­pel­lier and Glas­gow War­riors.

Best could be fac­ing a sim­i­lar time-frame and at the very least, both stal­warts will be short on game-time com­ing into the clashes with South Africa, Ar­gentina and Fiji in Novem­ber.

“He has a ham­string tear, it’s not a mas­sive tear but be­cause of his his­tory we’ll just be ul­tra­cau­tious try­ing to get him back,” Cullen said af­ter over­see­ing train­ing at the Nelson Man­dela Bay Sta­dium in Port El­iz­a­beth yes­ter­day.

“He’s pretty frus­trated by it, as is ev­ery­body, but it’s hard to put an ex­act time-frame on it but it is in and around 6-8 weeks. We’ll do what’s best by Rob.”

Cullen is aim­ing to put a dif­fi­cult week be­hind him when his side take on the South­ern Kings in the Guin­ness PRO14 game this af­ter­noon (1.15 Ir­ish time).

He con­firmed that New Zealand na­tives Isa Nacewa and Jami­son Gib­son-Park will re­turn to South Africa and link up with the team in Cape Town to­mor­row hav­ing ini­tially been de­nied en­try be­cause they hadn’t ap­plied for a visa.

They will come into con­tention for Fri­day’s sec­ond game of the tour against the Chee­tahs and Cullen said nei­ther player had been slated to start to­day’s game in any event.

“It is un­for­tu­nate, we named a start­ing XV on the Tues­day be­fore we left and nei­ther player was in the start­ing XV, so in terms of dis­rup­tion it’s min­i­mal,” he said.

“It didn’t re­ally af­fect the group. At the air­port, the group just moved on off to the ho­tel and started our prepa­ra­tions.”

Rhys Rud­dock leads the side in the ab­sence of Nacewa, with a quar­tet of Ire­land in­ter­na­tion­als – Jordi Mur­phy, Joey Car­bery, Dave Kearney and Noel Reid – re­turn­ing from in­jury for their first starts of the sea­son to help bol­ster an in­ex­pe­ri­enced squad.

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