Belfast Telegraph

Ireland stars set to miss festive derby games in rest directive

Tadhg Beirne
Tadhg Beirne

By Ruaihdri O'Connor

The Pro14 clashes between Ulster and Connacht on December 27 and Munster and Leinster the following day are set to take place without any Ireland players.

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This is because players who represented Ireland in Japan must take two weeks off in a row during the festive period, so the provinces must choose between this week's matches and the first week in January as to when to field them.

Andy Farrell hosts his first camp as coach this week at Abbotstown ahead of the matches between Leinster and Ulster on Friday and Connacht v Munster on Saturday, before breaking for Christmas.

The decision to rest the players comes at the midway point of a 13-month season for players who began their pre-season training on June 16 before travelling to the World Cup and who will go on tour to Australia next year, not returning until July 11.

The new coach will be sweating on the health of three of Munster's Ireland internationals ahead of the Six Nations after Tadhg Beirne suffered a serious ankle injury, John Ryan damaged a calf and Peter O'Mahony pulled his groin at Allianz Park on Saturday.

O'Mahony was injured in the warm-up, while the other injuries came during the first half of a tough contest. Andrew Conway was also replaced with a head injury.

The winger will go through the return-to-play protocols, but he and the other three are due a festive rest either way.

"They can only play one of the three games and they have to rest most of the time for two weeks consecutively," Munster head coach Johann van Graan said. "That's the thing about sending our guys to the World Cup, they're going to be out for most of these three weeks, and then if you add those injuries.

"I'm not going to make any excuses, that's just the way it is. We're facing Connacht away and we're facing Ulster away, and we're facing Leinster at home, so it is going to be a huge challenge on our squad and our academy.

"We've got to plan for it, and we've just got to throw guys in over the next three weeks and they've got to accept the challenge that lies ahead.

"I haven't spoken to Tadhg, but it looks pretty serious. He had started the warm-up pretty well but pulled out.

"Losing John Ryan, which looks also like a pretty serious calf injury, and losing Peter (ankle) in the warm-up and Andrew Conway to a HIA was tough to take."

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