Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Battered and Bloodied: The Tigers walking wounded

Injuries have been the story of the season so far so what could be a better idea for an article?

Tigers have been beset by a never ending string of injuries from the bog standard calf strains to the more obscure injuries more often associated with car crashes.  

They are affecting every single position as the list is still sitting in double figures and at times has pushed past 20.  The strength & conditioning boys at the club like to think they are leaders in their fields, no wonder when they get so much practice.  

Let's start with the good news.  Vereniki Goneva could be seen warming up with the side in Gloucester and has been reported as fully fit by Cockerill in the club's mouthpiece Leicester Mercury; in the same interview Cockerill confirmed that Ed Slater is also fit after taking a month off with a broken bone in his hand.

Ryan Lamb has recovered from his broken hand and the club is confident he has served his ban.  According to the RFU judgement he must serve his ban once fit, so hopefully the club will not have another "Ian Humphreys" moment and forget to sort the paperwork out.  Lamb had broken his hand punching Gloucester prop Koree Briton in the face during an A League match.

Steve Mafi is still in Australia on compassionate leave.  His wife was due to give birth in England but visa issues delayed her beyond the time it was safe to take such a long journey; typically after being forced to stay in Australia it was a complicated birth and obviously just when Steve was getting back to fitness.  Hopefully all will be well and Steve, Mrs and baby will be in Leicester as soon as possible.

Making his absence felt all the more is the fact that his flanking rival Tom Croft is also missing.  Croft injured his knee in a tackle with Worcester scum half Paul Hodgson as his brake set up Goneva for a last minute bonus point try on the opening day of the season.  Croft has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the rest of the season.

Another Lion to get injured on his seasonal debut was Manu Tuilagi.  The Samoan powerhouse tore his pectoral muscle in a second half tackle at home to Newcastle.  Originally a course of physiotherapy and re-hab was thought to be sufficient but after complaining of some soreness it was discovered the injury had failed to heal and surgery would be required.  Manu will be out until January so is an outside bet for the final rounds of the Heineken Cup.

His centre partner Anthony Allen is also missing with a less than typical injury.  Such was the ferocious intensity of October's derby match with Northampton he suffered a blunt muscle trauma injury usually only seen in serious road traffic accidents.

Allen has suffered "compartment syndrome" where there has been a bleed into a muscle causing the pressure to rise and the muscle to die.  Without early detection gangrene is a serious possibility.  The injury must heal from the inside so Allen's leg has had to be cut then left open as it heals.  

The first known sporting injury of its kind the return dates are best estimates but it is thought he will be back sometime in February.

As ever Tigers' injuries always happen in the same position and this year, fittingly, it seems to be the 13 shirt that is cursed.  Matt Smith tore his hamstring against London Irish, after missing the pre-season with a broken thumb, but is hoped to feature around the Saracens fixture or the Christmas game against Sale.  

Terrence Hepetema joined as injury dispensation for Smith but found himself just as susceptible to the curse as all the rest.  He suffered a broken eye socket in the Harlequins game and should also be fit around Christmas.

Development squad player Henry Purdy left the field injured two weeks ago for Nottingham and missed last weekend's match.  Scott Steele has also been reported as carrying a leg injury of some kind and due back within a month.

Every year there seems to be a new signing who barely players.  Last year it was Miles Benjamin, this season it is Gonzalo Camacho.  After dislocating his shoulder against New Zealand in the Rugby Championship he had surgery in Leicester and was expected back around now; however complications emerged in November and Camacho had to re-go under the knife.  He is now expected back during the Six Nations in early March.

And then we have Mat Tait.  We should have known.  Don't get me wrong, I like him but bloody hell he makes it hard for you.  In the summer he had a "routine" ankle operation and was meant to return away to Exeter.  That was the 29th of September.  He didn't.  He still hasn't.  Unofficially the club is anticipating a return sometime in the early new year as he has only just returned to training.

Few.  I think that is all the backs.  So onwards with this slog through the misery and medicals of our leading players.

Geoff Parling is another Tiger to be injured at the hands of the All Blacks.  Parling suffered shoulder damage against the New Zealanders and will be missing through the rest of the Heineken Cup group stages.  A trip to Newcastle at the beginning of March will surely be his target return date.

Logovi'i Mulipola also returned from international duty injured after he lasted less than 10 minutes in Samoa's opening Autumn international against the Irish in Dublin.  Mulipola strained his calf and is thought to be close to a return to action.  Montpellier away may be too soon but Saracens at Copthall is a definite target.

Rob Hawkins is yet to feature this season and is rumoured to have not even been training.  His injury is thought to be shoulder related and any possible return date is unknown.  Hawkins injury couldn't have come at a worse time as he enters the final six months of his contract.  Plagued with injuries since Calum Clarke's disgusting intervention in his career Hawkins has only started 8 games since then.

Injury Summary:

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