Leinster are "optimistic" that Sean Cronin will be available for their Champions Cup final against Saracens later this week. The Irish hooker has been struggling with a calf injury, which he picked up against Toulouse in the European Champions' Cup semifinal and will be assessed this week with a view towards lining out in St James Park.
Stuart Lancaster also said that Rhys Ruddock should be available for selection after suffering a concussion against Ulster. He has gone through the Return to Play Protocols and will likely take his place on the bench against the Premiership side.
“He didn’t train last week so hopefully he’s going to do units today with a view to training tomorrow and Thursday. So we’re optimistic,” said Lancaster on Cronin.
“I mean he hasn’t trained yet. He didn’t train last week. Obviously it’s a calf injury. We’re planning on doing a session today and then tomorrow we’ve got a full training session. He might take part in that depending on how today goes. But we’re pretty optimistic that he’ll be right... we’ll definitely give him until Thursday because he’s such an important player.”
There is no doubt surrounding Ruddock, who will turn out for training with Leinster on Monday.
“There’s nothing wrong with him so he is available for selection,” said Lancaster. “He gone through the Return to Play protocols and he’ll be back at training this afternoon.”
Both backrow Josh van der Flier, who has made a faster than expected recovery from a groin injury and scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park are both longer term considerations. Van der Flier is expected to return to training with Leinster this week. But the European final will come too soon for him to have any part to play.
Gibson-Park will also struggle to declare himself available for this weekend.
In that scenario the overseas players will be winger James Lowe (New Zealand) and Scott Fardy (Australia) both of whom had outstanding games against Toulouse in the semifinal.
“Yeah so he (Gibson-Park) had a hamstring in the Glasgow game. He hasn’t trained with us yet but still probably not planned to train until later this week,” explained Lancaster. “It’s probably tight for this weekend but obviously it’s a bonus for him coming back with a semifinal in mind after this week plus the other bonus of Josh van der Flier being back, potentially available to train this week with a view to playing next week as well.
“No. It would be too short notice for him,” said Lancaster about van der Flier making it in the squad for Saracens this week. “But that’s the bonus. He’s done brilliantly to get back from that groin injury and a real boost for the squad.”
If as expected Gibson-Park remains injured, former Irish Under 20 Hugh O’Sullivan is likely to come in as back up to Luke McGrath at scrumhalf. O’Sullivan has played 14 times this season for Leinster with two starts. He came off the bench in the semifinal against Toulouse but only for the final two minutes.
“He’s trained right the way throughout the season and he’s played some big games,” said Lancaster of O’Sullivan. “He’s started and he came off the bench in the Toulouse game. He’s a confident young man and that’s what you need in a scrum-half. I’m delighted for him the progress he has made this year. He’s got the full confidence of the squad. He’d be more apprehensive if he hadn’t done the work in training but he’s been in there right from the very start, so, he’s good to go.”
It leaves Leinster with Fardy and Lowe to probably face Saracens. Both started in the semifinal with Lowe coming into the side ahead of Dave Kearney. The 26-year-old Kiwi followed that selection up with a dynamic performance as well as scoring his 10th try in 14 games this season.
“Yeah...The Toulouse game we went with Scott and James (Lowe). They both played pretty well,” said an understated Lancaster.
“Yeah, we’re fortunate, we’re blessed with a lot of options on the wing. Dave Kearney was very unlucky to miss out against Toulouse. I thought James was outstanding in that game. Obviously, he’s got point of differences as an attacking player but he’s very on point defensively which is obviously a big part of the game as well.
"If the Jack Conan collision before halftime and James dropping the ball over the line, he would have ended up with three tries in that game, wouldn't he? But the most pleasing thing about the Toulouse game was obviously not to concede any tries and James Lowe was a big part of that."
Barry Daly (collarbone), Mick Kearney (shoulder), Dan Leavy (knee) and Adam Byrne (quad) are not available for selection.