Leinster are dealing with a full pack
Leinster’s medical bulletin in the wake of last weekend’s bruising 15-12 defeat to Clermont Auvergne for Saturday’s Heineken Cup re-match at the Aviva stadium was relatively chipper when weighed against previous injury updates this season.
Kevin McLaughlin, Heinke van der Merwe, Dave Kearney and Eoin O’Malley will be considered for selection after proving their fitness, while Luke Fitzgerald could be back playing in time for the league fixture against Ulster at Ravenhill on December 21st.
McLaughlin suffered a heavy blow towards the end of Sunday’s match but was able to walk from the pitch and according to Leinster manager Guy Easterby, the prognosis is good with regard to the flanker.
He ventured: “We have come out of it (the match) not too bad at all. We are confident that we have a full deck to choose from.
“Kevin McLaughlin got a bang at the end but was in good form in the changing room. He’ll have to follow the return-to-play protocols for anyone who gets a bang like that. We certainly expect him to be available for selection.”
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt decided not to risk South African prop van der Merwe. Easterby explained: “He’s fine. It was pretty precautionary, to be honest. He just had a shoulder niggle. It was probably pertinent to leave it, as he had had a couple of knocks on it while playing for South Africa. He will be available for this week.”
Kearney and O’Malley both trained at a frosty UCD yesterday afternoon, the former having recovered from a quad strain. The latter has yet to play this season because of a cruciate knee ligament tear sustained last May. A more realistic outlet for his competitive return might be the British Irish Cup match against Jersey at Donnybrook on Sunday.
Easterby confirmed the province was “awaiting a green light from the surgeon” to allow Fitzgerald resume full contact work.
The Leinster management understands the subtle shift in pressure levels for Saturday’s game. Leinster must win to be able to dispute pool honours. In what was largely an excellent performance, they got to the threshold of victory only to be undone by their own hand.
Easterby admitted: “Clearly there is some frustration when you go away to a place like that, having worked hard all week and prepared as well as you could to get the win, and not get the win. The frustration is there but it is not part of the process in trying to win the game on Saturday. We have to make sure we do everything right during the week.
“We have got the first part of the week right in recovery and now we have to go out and prepare properly to make sure we give our best performance on Saturday.
“In these back to back games there are always little nuances that people pick up on. The coaching staff will be working hard in that regard.
“There are trends that teams pick up when they watch three or four of your performances on tape.” A return to the Aviva Stadium where they are unbeaten is an obvious fillip.
“What we will gain from is that it is a home fixture that will be a sell-out (46,000 tickets sold). That’s been a massive help to us in the past and we’ll need every ounce of support and every small margin that we can get for the weekend to get a positive result.”
Ireland flanker Seán O’Brien is set to make his 75th appearance for the province if he makes the Leinster team that will be officially released on Friday at lunchtime.