Seán O’Brien setback a body blow for Leinster and Ireland

Cian Healy unlikely to feature against Ulster in Pro12 while Rob Kearney makes progress

Seán O’Brien (right) with Leinster strength and conditioning coach Cillian Reardon: there will be an update on his hamstring injury later this week. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Seán O’Brien (right) with Leinster strength and conditioning coach Cillian Reardon: there will be an update on his hamstring injury later this week. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Leinster and Ireland flanker Seán O’Brien looks likely to miss out on his province’s push for a Guinness Pro12 title as well as Ireland’s three-match test series against South Africa next month.

O’Brien tore his hamstring while playing for Ireland in the Six Nations Championship game against France. After initially making significant progress in his rehabilitation to the point where he was expected to play against Benetton Treviso a fortnight ago, he suffered a recurrence of the problem when breaking down in training. 

Leinster are expected to confirm on Thursday that O’Brien’s season is over. Defence coach Kurt McQuilkin was noncommittal when offering an injury update on the squad ahead of the province’s Pro12 semi-final against Ulster at a sold-out RDS on Friday night.

Further update

When it was suggested that the news doesn’t sound good, McQuilkin said: “No, not at the moment. I think we will get a clearer picture later this week with regards to Seán. It’s just unfortunate.” McQuilkin also confirmed that contrary to reports over the weekend, O’Brien had not undergone surgery at this point.

Leinster also have other injury concerns ahead of the Ulster match.

“We are still continuing to manage Cian Healy. He’s unlikely to feature this weekend. Rob Kearney [he went off against Treviso with an ankle injury], he’s making good progress, so we will just have to wait for a further update on him,” McQuilkin said.

Second Captains

“Josh van der Flier had surgery and is out for eight weeks. Jack Conan played his first game [since his ankle injury] against the Ireland Under-20s at the weekend. He got 40 minutes under his belt so there’s a bit of progress there. 

“Fergus [McFadden] is still suspended. With regards to Johnny Sexton it was just a precautionary thing that we brought him off with his quad in the last match [against Treviso] and he’s been training away fine.” 

Ulster’s 30-6 victory over Leinster in Belfast last month, scoring three tries while conceding none, was acutely disappointing for the visitors, especially given Leinster’s record this season as having the league’s best defence. 

Hard to defend

“Funnily enough, I didn’t take that as badly as the Treviso one. Why? Because in the Ulster game there was a penalty try, an intercept on attack, which is very hard to defend, and obviously the second try Luke Fitzgerald was in the bin but they still ran a good play to score it.

“It hurts you but the penalty try – they can be debatable at times – and the intercept they’re bloody hard to defend. The Treviso game, we mentally knocked off in that fourth quarter and that would be what really got under my skin and we’ve had discussions about that since then.”

Ulster have won the last four games on the bounce during the league stage racking up big points’ totals, not least in their last outing, scoring 46 away to the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium. 

Quality ball

Jamie Heaslip

“The main thing they do is to deliver good quality ball to attack off. The central role of the eight, nine, 10, 12 is very important too and the back line is playing very well,” he said.

“Ruan [Pienaar] is one of the best in the game in directing the show, and making the right decision nine times out of 10. Paddy [Jackson] is playing some really good rugby right now. They’re getting good go forward ball. 

“If they hit up Stu [McCloskey], they get good go forward ball; they just know what they’re at. Their collective strength is very impressive, they just know the way they want to play, know their patterns, their moves, everything inside out. I think regardless of who plays for them, that standard doesn’t drop.”

Due to the demand for tickets, Leinster installed an extra 700 seats in the RDS for Friday night’s game to bring the capacity up to 19,100. Those tickets were snapped up yesterday morning making the semi-final a sell-out. 

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