Guy Easterby upbeat as Séan O’Brien back in frame for Leinster return
Lote Tuqiri and Luke Fitzgerald could get some game time against Munster
Seán O’Brien at a Leinster squad training session at UCD, Dublin, yesterday ahead of Saturday’s clash against Munster. Photograph: Inpho
Thomond Park against Munster, with Frenchman Roman Poite the referee, is the shorter-term view.
Bragging rights and league points are important enough but player management protocols and injuries have hampered O’Connor and while his selection for this Limerick derby is from a fit squad that suffered no injury of consequence last weekend, his question maybe what players are ripe for the game.
The good news is flanker Seán O’Brien is likely to be in contention for his first start. “Hopeful that Seán [O’Brien] will be back on deck,” says manager Guy Easterby. “Obviously those two guys [Lote Tuqiri and Luke Fitzgerald] have not had a lot of game time. It would be nice for them to get some game time this weekend. They’re both in the mix but a lot will depend on how they come through the first couple of sessions.”
Gordon D’Arcy and Fitzgerald were doing their own workouts yesterday in Belfield, while Tuquiri was involved in the non-tackling match that was going on behind them.
“Leo Cullen, Michael Bent is in and around but this week is too soon,” says Guy Easterby. “We’re in relatively good shape. I don’t like saying that . . . Shane Jennings out too, 10 days. Gordon D’Arcy will hopefully be available. He’s doing stuff on his own which is return to play protocols and shouldn’t be an issue.”
South African back Zane Kirtchner has also to come into the squad. He is on his last weekend with the Springboks, who face New Zealand in the final match of the Rugby Championship. Kirchener arrives next week and has been named in Leinster’s Heineken Cup squad. They play Ospreys in the opening game at Liberty Stadium on October 12th.
Easterby points out the team was changed last week as much to give game time and that several players made their first starts of the season. “Coming off the back of a weekend where we made 11 changes and had five or six guys making their first starts . . . to come through that relatively unscathed was a real positive especially with what we have lying ahead,” he says.
On the subject of Leo Cullen going straight from his playing career into a coaching role to replace the departing Jonno Gibbes, Easterby was non committal but singled out the lock as ideal and pointedly did not exclude him from such a position.
“If Leo is the right man for the job then he is the right man for the job,” said Easterby. “Leo is playing still. He has got his own decisions to make. He has been an unbelievable presence and if he wants to be a coach I have no doubt whatsoever he will make a top-class coach because he is extremely driven, his attention to detail is fantastic. With his presence in the environment and the culture that he has helped create here, he would be a huge positive to have on board.”