SPORT — 03 December 2013

By Damian Dolan.

The worry for Ireland’s provinces as they head back into European Cup action must be what impact Ireland’s cruel defeat to New Zealand will have on their international stars.

The All Blacks game was a physically and mentally draining game and it will be hard to expect the likes of O’Connell, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy et al not to show some signs fatigue.

Heineken Cup rugby is often touted as the closest thing to international level, and

For Ulster the price has been tangible. Hooker Rory Best ruled out until the New Year with a broken arm, while Racing Metro will have to piece together Jonathan Sexton battered confidence after his missed penalty, which had it gone over would surely have given Ireland their first-ever win over the All Blacks.

The Irish dressing room afterwards must have resembled a battleground, with battered bodies strewn about the place. If ever there was a vindication for the central contracts system this is it, as all were allowed to sit out last weekend’s RaboDirect Pro12 action.

For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World

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