Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Ulster Rugby: Declan Fitzpatrick on hold for more heart checks

Declan Fitzpatrick faces an uncertain playing future

Ulster and Ireland prop Declan Fitzpatrick has returned home after undergoing a procedure to correct a heart irregularity which forced his withdrawal from Friday night's defeat at Glasgow Warriors.

The 30-year-old left hospital hospital in Glasgow yesterday and came back to Belfast where he will undergo further tests to monitor his condition which, though it has stabilised, is not likely to see him feature for Ulster again this season.

Fitzpatrick was a late first half replacement in the 27-9 defeat at Scotstoun but had to leave the action on the hour mark due to the emergence of his problem and was taken to hospital in Glasgow where he remained until being released yesterday.

The situation is just the latest misfortune to have befallen Fitzpatrick who has endured an injury blighted career and indeed his appearance from the bench last Friday was the first time he had played in three months following a concussion he suffered on Ulster duty during the Heineken Cup pool stages.

His condition has fuelled speculation that the seven times capped Ireland international, who has two years to run on his Ulster contract, could be facing the possibility of the end of his playing career though, as yet, there is no firm indication that this is likely to happen.

There are more positive developments regarding the other injuries picked up at Glasgow which, with props Ricky Lutton and Tom Court also having to retire early, had thrown up the distinct possibility that coach Mark Anscombe – with fellow props John Afoa and Callum Black already out – was facing a major front row crisis at a critical point in Ulster's now rather shaky-looking bid to secure a PRO12 top four place.

Lutton left the field in the first half last Friday night – he was replaced by Fitzpatrick – with a toe problem that at first raised fears that he may have suffered a fracture.

But an X-ray yesterday morning showed that the tight-head prop had not suffered a break and he will now undergo physiotherapy in a bid to be right for Ulster's now must-win clash with PRO12 leaders Leinster at Ravenhill on Friday week, May 2.

Loose-head prop Court was another casualty of the damaging defeat at Glasgow and, after he was forced off late in the second half, Ulster had to drop down to 14 men as the game went to uncontested scrums due to the visitors having run out of props who were fit to play.

Though the London Irish bound player seemed to be in some distress with an unspecified neck and shoulder problem, these issues are believed to be being addressed by Ulster's physios and, in actual fact, the 33-year-old's most pressing concern was a thumb injury he sustained in the game.

As with Lutton, a scan yesterday showed that the Ireland international had not suffered any fracture and it is believed that Court will be fit to resume training later this week.

Regarding Ulster's other injured players – a lengthy list which includes Afoa, Ruan Pienaar, Rory Best, Robbie Diack, Callum Black, Dan Tuohy and Roger Wilson – there are still no further developments on any of their returns other than the fact that their rehabilitation programmes are all ongoing.

With no game until May 2, Ulster are spending three days at Ireland's training base at Carton House in Co Kildare. They are due to return on Thursday after which preparations for the Leinster game will begin in earnest as Anscombe attempts to secure a place in the top four, a feat which is now looking decidedly challenging after the Ospreys closed to within five points of Ulster on Sunday.

With just two to play, and Ulster finishing up their regulation season with an ominous looking trip to play Munster at Thomond Park, Anscombe needs a positive outcome from somewhere unless the Osprey, with an easier run-in, slip up along the way.

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