LEINSTER’S INJURY PROBLEMS do not appear as bad as first feared, following their RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Munster on Saturday.
Kevin McLaughlin hyper-extended his arm in a tackle, but the province are hopeful he will be available for their first Heineken Cup game at home to Exeter this Saturday.
No bone damage and a limited amount of ligament and muscle damage were apparent following scans, which is very good news for the province, given that their back-row is already somewhat depleted, with Sean O’Brien, Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan all currently injured.
Isa Nacewa suffered a haematoma after colliding with Ireland international Conor Murray, but Leinster are similarly optimistic that he will be fit for Saturday’s game, and Brian O’Driscoll rolled his ankle midway through the second half, but again, he looks likely to be available for the match.
Andrew Conway (stinger) will be monitored during the week in order to ascertain whether he is capable of featuring in the Exeter game.
Isaac Boss (arm), skipper Leo Cullen (arm), Gordon D’Arcy (rib) and Cian Healy (bicep) are also expected to return to the squad, though the game may have come too soon for Rob Kearney (back) and Quinn Roux (shoulder).
However, speaking to TheScore.ie earlier, the side’s skills and kicking coach, Richie Murphy, said no one was ruled out of the game just yet.
“Brian (O’Driscoll) should be fine. Isa (Nacewa) should be fine. Kevin McLaughlin hyper-extended his elbow and we won’t be able to make a decision on him until later in the week. Besides him, everyone should be okay… The likes of Leo (Cullen), Isaac Boss, Gordon (D’Arcy) and possibly Rob Kearney should be coming back into the reckoning this week.
“We’re pretty sure that all those guys will be fit, they’re all training today. They will also train tomorrow and after tomorrow, we will have our team finalised for ourselves and it’ll be a case of looking forward to the match at the weekend.”
Speaking on Kearney’s fitness, Murphy said:
“There’s no doubt, he has only played, what, 20 minutes or so down in Connacht. But Rob is very, very fit. He’s looking pretty sharp (and) in the game he did do very, very well.
“I think the player himself knows (whether) he feels he’s ready to go. If there is a risk about him at all, we wouldn’t be using him.”
He added that Leinster cannot afford to underestimate their opponents on Saturday.
“It’s definitely a club that has stepped up in the last couple of years. We played them in the British and Irish Cup four years ago. A number of our senior players were over there and we had a very hard game back then. They’ve taken massive strides since then and deserve their place in the Heineken Cup.
“They’re going well in the Premiership, they’ve played a lot of top sides like Saracens, Leicester and Harlequins who they had a great win against at the weekend. We’re under no illusion that they’ll come here full of passion and ready to play. We have to be ready for that. Everybody wants to win over Leinster now because we’re Heineken Cup champions.”
“It’s a massive opportunity for them. We understand we’ve had a great win at the weekend, but our fans love to see us do well in the Heineken Cup and we love the competition. So hopefully with a full house in the RDS we can come on and put on another display.”
Murphy is well aware of Exeter’s strengths and acknowledged that Leinster have still yet to play to their full potential this season.
“There’s no doubt; they are an abrasive team, they’re very strong around the breakdown, they’re good with the ball in hand, they’re very good at counter-attack football and anything turned over is going to be a big danger.
“We took a big step forward last week, but we’re under no illusions that we need to go up another couple of gears for the Heineken Cup this week.”