Gordon D’Arcy at 13 as Luke Fitzgerald injury refuses to go away
Ospreys v Leinster, Liberty stadium, 7.05 - live RTÉ Two
Leinster’s Gordon D’Arcy is tackled by Mathieu Bastareaud of Toulon during last Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final at Stade Félix Mayol. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Leinster must move rapidly onwards. That will require bodies torpedoing into the breakdown – where Justin Tipuric is well capable of repeating the damage caused by Steffon Armitage – and fixing a lineout that malfunctioned three too many times in Toulon.
Leo Cullen will address the latter problem as Devin Toner’s excellent season takes a brief pause. He’s on the bench. As is Jordi Murphy with Kevin McLaughlin starting at blindside flanker in place of Rhys Ruddock, who is nursing that nagging calf.
A player not on show, and presumably approaching wits end, is Luke Fitzgerald. That hard to treat, even harder to heal, abductor muscle is spoiling what was primed to be his strike back season.
Instead the 26-year-old is struggling to piece together any consistent game time, which is hardly ideal considering selection for the Argentina tour is looming.
One last charge
But Leinster must move on. No man is bigger than the club and with Fitzgerald unavailable and Brian O’Driscoll’s body resting for one last charge, Gordon D’Arcy shifts to outside centre alongside the improving Noel Reid.
Solving the conundrum that is O’Driscoll’s retirement could be as simple as that. D’Arcy’s body is showing the benefits of Pilates and his rugby intuition kept him afloat in the perfect storm that was Stade Félix Mayol.
Or maybe Tommy Bowe will tear up Connacht’s midfield in Belfast. Anyway, he who wears 13 next is under the microscope tonight.
Ian Madigan is another on the “bumps and bruises” list so Jimmy Gopperth will, body permitting, play 80 minutes in Swansea as there’s no specialist outhalf in the panel.
Richardt Strauss is also on ice while Fergus McFadden’s medial knee strain “is not as bad as initially thought” say Leinster, who envisage having him back for Edinburgh on May 10th.
At least a refreshed Cian Healy is primed to truck all the way into June. That helps with Jack McGrath also out and the Ospreys perilous league position. The 2012 champions lie in fifth, four points adrift of Glasgow in the last play-off spot.
“It’s do or die for us over the next four games now,” says head coach Steve Tandy. “We have to put in consistent top-level performances between now and the end of the season if we are going to secure a play-off spot.”
They sure do. Leinster can afford to slip up here and still secure a home semi-final but veterans like Shane Jennings must be fuming after Sunday’s showing. Expect a clinical response.
Ospreys: R Fussell; J Hassler, J Spratt, A Beck, A Natoga; D Biggar, T Habberfield; D Jones, S Baldwin, A Jarvis; R Jones, A Wyn Jones (capt); J Bearman, J Tipuric, D Baker. Replacements: S Otten, N Smith, A Jones, J King, M Allen, T Tebaldi, S Davies, H Dirksen.
Leinster: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, G D’Arcy, N Reid, D Kearney; J Gopperth, I Boss; C Healy, S Cronin, M Moore; L Cullen (capt), M McCarthy; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip. Replacements: A Dundon, M Bent, M Ross, D Toner, J Murphy, L McGrath, C O’Shea, D Fanning.
Referee: M Mitrea (Italy).
Verdict: Leinster win.