'A little Irish jockey, he rode the golden unicorn': The Sale update on injured MacGinty
Alex Sanderson has provided an at times colourful medical update on his injured trio ahead of this Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final which will see Sale return to Sandy Park, the venue where they were defeated by a point by Exeter last Saturday and lost AJ MacGinty, Akker van der Merwe and Cameron Neild to injury.
The loss of all three for the knockout stages of the tournament would be a huge blow and Sanderson has admitted he is planning to definitely not have two of them available following serious injuries that are still be assessed.
Out-half MacGinty has lit up the Premiership with his form this season, van der Merwe was considered unlucky not to be selected by the Springboks for the upcoming tour versus the Lions, while Neild was a hometown hero who was man-of-the-match in the round 21 demolition of Harlequins before he suffered last week’s injury at Exeter.
Sanderson was initially hesitant to give information on the situation regarding all three players when he appeared at the weekly Sale media briefing on Tuesday evening but he eventually relented and admitted that MacGinty and Neild are unavailable but there is a chance that van der Merwe would likely be available for the final if Sale make it but he is doubtful for this weekend.
“I’m not sure how much I am able to release,” said Sanderson initially when quizzed about the health of the trip injured in Devon last weekend in a match where Sale relinquished a 19-3 lead and lost 19-20 to an opposition that had Sam Skinner red-carded. “I haven’t asked their permission in terms of the severity.
"I rang a few Premiership clubs about finding AJ a spot. I spoke to about four or five of them…"
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“Well actually, AJ is on a conference call with a surgeon this afternoon so we still don’t know about him but thankfully it’s not a hamstring off the bone or any tendons so it could be much worse. It seems like it’s something meniscul, whatever that is, so it’s probably the best thing that could happen, but in terms of operations and moving forward we won’t know until tonight.
“Akker, we are giving him as long as we can this week and there is a chance he might come through. If he is not back this week he pretty much should be back the week after, all being well. Fingers crossed. Cam Neild, no chance unfortunately but again the long-term ramifications I’m not sure.”
A PRO12 title winner with Connacht in 2016, MacGinty, the Irishman who has played for the USA at the World Cup, has been at the fulcrum of the Sale progress to the semi-finals, making 21 appearances – 16 as the starting out-half – in their 22-game campaign.
In that 1,364-minute contribution, some of his headline stats were scoring 188 points, making 401 metres from 126 carries, putting in 133 tackles, giving a dozen try assists, making eleven clean breaks and winning seven turnovers. Those numbers, though, won’t be added to following his injury in the final minute last weekend and while Sale will likely start one-cap Springboks out-half when they visit Exeter again, there is no denying MacGinty will be a huge loss.
“Captain America, that is what we call him now,” quipped Sanderson. “I labelled him as a poor relation to the golden unicorn, I called him a little Irish jockey, he rode the golden unicorn. But that is an underestimation in the extreme, he has been absolutely mercurial, he has been brilliant for us.
“He has played some of his best rugby and he will be sorely missed. We talked about it on the pitch straight after the game, that we can’t let their injuries be in vain this weekend and all of us to some degree will be performing for him as well as the other two. He has been brilliant.”
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