Ireland’s quest to win a first World Cup has suffered a major setback after Dan Leavy was ruled out of the tournament by a knee injury described by Leinster as “complex”.
Leavy lasted only 11 minutes of Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final victory over Ulster before he was carried from the pitch on a stretcher having replaced Sean O’Brien in the second-half.
The 24-year-old openside had just recovered from the long-term calf injury that forced him to miss the recent Six Nations in which Ireland surrendered their crown to Wales.
Not only will Leavy be absent for the climax to Leinster’s bid to defend their European title, he will also sit out Japan 2019 to rehabilitate an injury that will require long-term medical attention.
“Leinster can confirm that Dan Leavy had an initial scan yesterday on a complex knee ligament injury but needs further assessment this week,” his province announced.
“He has been ruled out for the remainder of the season and into next season to include the World Cup.”
Leavy was superb throughout last year’s Six Nations as Ireland completed the Grand Slam, but has struggled with injury in the wake of the subsequent summer tour to Australia.
“Dan worked so hard to get himself back and physically fit,” Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty said.
“He’s such a huge threat on either side of the ball, gives the team a lot confidence so it’s a big loss for Leinster and Irish Rugby. He’ll make a plan now to get himself back.”
Eddie Jones has dismissed the role of Lions head coach as an “ambassador job” while refusing to rule out the possibility of succeeding Michael Cheika as Australia boss.
Jones insists he has no interest in leading the elite of British and Irish rugby to South Africa in 2021, in the process taking a dig at Warren Gatland who was in charge of the previous two tours.
Gatland recently masterminded his third Grand Slam with Wales and is favourite to continue in the post.
“The last thing I want to do is spend eight weeks in a blazer,” Jones told the Brisbane Courier Mail.
“That’s an ambassador job. I’m a coach. I’d rather coach the Queensland Sheffield Shield (cricket) team.”
Gatland is also favourite to replace Jones after this autumn’s World Cup when his reign as Wales boss ends.
Beyond Japan 2019, Jones’ future is clouded in doubt despite a contract extension lasting until 2021 that is dependent on performance at the global showpiece.
And the Australian has done nothing to clarify his position by keeping the door ajar to reprising a role he performed from 2001-05 when the World Cup is over.
“I don’t think I would ever say ‘never’, but it’s not something I have really thought about,’ Jones said.
“One thing Australia are not short of is talent. Cheika is in a good position. This could be his last hurrah and he’s got nothing to lose.”
Exeter boss Rob Baxter insists his side will not be resting on their laurels despite sealing a Gallagher Premiership semi-final spot with five games still remaining.
The Chiefs moved nine points clear at the top of the standings as well as securing a play-off berth for the fourth successive season with a 29-10 win over Bath at Sandy Park.
It is the earliest that a team has secured a semi-final place in Premiership history but Chiefs director of rugby Baxter is determined to ensure there is no let-up from his league leaders.
He said: “We are ticking off some milestones but we don’t want to splutter through the last five games as we want to build a belief in ourselves and take some belief away from the others.
“The squad will have a break now because we are out of Europe and playing two games less than Saracens may help us in the long run.”
Exeter had to overcome the pre-match loss of Gareth Steenson but still managed tries from Ollie Devoto, Olly Woodburn and Jack Yeandle.
There was also a penalty try award with Steenson’s replacement, Joe Simmonds, converting two and adding a penalty.
Baxter added: “There was an element of rustiness in our game as we had to integrate our internationals so it didn’t quite flow.
“Losing Gareth Steenson with a calf twinge in the warm-up disrupted our plans as Joe Simmonds hasn’t had of lot game time lately, but we overcame that as Joe played exceptionally well.”
Bath had the lion’s share of possession but their only reward came from a single try from Nathan Catt and five points from Rhys Priestland’s boot.
A victory would have seen Bath climb into the top five and head coach Todd Blackadder was left to reflect on missed opportunities.
He said: “Two or three tries went begging as we went away from our systems, especially in the red zone.
“We created opportunities but didn’t execute them, which you have to do against Exeter otherwise you lose.
“I thought we played pretty well but in the first half, our kicking was poor as it allowed them to counter-attack and our ball-carriers weren’t good enough as we wanted quick ball.”
Next up for seventh-placed Bath is a fixture at Twickenham against local rivals Bristol in a fortnight’s time.
Blackadder added: “Our target is to fight for everything and we want to finish in the top six.”
Bath captain Will Chudley, making his first appearance at Sandy Park since his departure from the Chiefs, also felt his side should have got more out of the West Country derby.
He said: “Our performance was good in the first 50 minutes but you have to capitalise if you are going to stay in the game.
“We had kickable penalties but we back our set-piece to deliver, but it didn’t today as a killer instinct was needed.
“We didn’t get the ball wide enough in the second half but this league is crazy as anyone can beat anyone so there’s still a lot to play for.”