Byrne blow for injury-hit Clermont
Byrne blow for injury-hit ClermontSHARE
Clermont have lost Lee Byrne for the remainder of the European Cup pool stages and have injury worries surrounding a trio of other big names ahead of Saturday's trip to the Scarlets.
Byrne dislocated his shoulder during the 32-11 win over the Welsh region at the Stade Marcel Michelin at the weekend and now faces eight weeks on the sidelines, while star centres Wesley Fofana and Aurélien Rougerie and prop Daniel Kotze are doubtful for Round Four.
Byrne is not due to be back in action until the beginning of February and will miss the crucial Round Five tie at Harlequins and the final pool game at home to fellow French side Racing Metro as a result.
The 33-year-old fullback should be fit to return if Clermont continue their quest for a first European Cup crown into the knockout stages but his loss is a big blow to coach Vern Cotter and company.
Byrne has started all three European Cup pool games so far this season, scoring a try in the Round Two win over Quins in October and his European record over the past three campaigns is hugely impressive.
The 2009 British and Irish Lion has missed just a single European Cup game since joining Clermont from the Ospreys in 2011, starting 18 of 19 ties as Clermont made it through to the semifinals in 2012 before reaching a maiden European Cup Final in May of this year.
Capped 44 times by Wales, Byrne has scored seven European Cup tries for Clermont and 15 in total, having also played for the Ospreys and Scarlets in Europe's top tournament.
The return clash with his previous club in Llanelli was set to see him hit a half century of European Cup appearances but he will now have to wait until at least the weekend of April 4-6 when Clermont hope to be involved in a fifth straight European quarterfinal.
Clermont's incredible strength in depth will help them cope with Byrne's absence but to lose three of their most influential figures in the backline would be a major setback as they look to build on a three-point advantage at the top of Pool Four.
Fofana is struggling with an ankle injury and didn't feature at the weekend but, like Byrne, he had played in every game bar one prior to that since the end of the 2010/11 season.
The 25-year-old midfielder scored five tries in last season's continental campaign and is seen by many as the most talented player in France.
Captain Rougerie did start Saturday's bonus-point success as he took his European tally to 68 games but he is suffering with a rib problem that could prevent him from featuring in Wales, while Kotze has a calf concern that forced him to sit out training on Monday.