By Brendan O'Brien
Leinster fans will have to play the waiting game over Sean O’Brien ahead of Sunday’s Champions Cup quarter-final meeting with Saracens at the Aviva Stadium.
The back row has been absent for club and country for all but 27 minutes since mid-December thanks to a hip injury suffered pre-Christmas that was followed by a shoulder problem picked up on his belated return, against Scarlets three weekends ago.
The Carlow man has returned to training, but he is to be assessed further this week before head coach Leo Cullen and his staff make a decision on his readiness.
And there are more unknowns besides O’Brien when it comes to the province’s back row.
Already without Jamie Heaslip, who has been forced to retire with a back injury, and Josh van der Flier, who is out long-term with a knee problem, the three-time European champions are also waiting to hear the latest on Jack Conan and Rhys Ruddock.
Conan emerged as a doubt this afternoon having taken a knock to his knee during the second-half of their Guinness PRO14 defeat to Ospreys on Saturday evening. He did not train this morning.
Ruddock has returned to the practise paddock after his hamstring injury but, like O’Brien and Conan, he will remain under observation for a bit yet. The 27-year old hasn’t played since December 10th.
Fergus McFadden is going through return-to-play protocols after his Head Injury Assessment against the Ospreys while Noel Reid, who underwent the same process, has been ruled out this weekend as he also injured an eye socket in Wales.
Dave Kearney picked up a shoulder injury at the Liberty Stadium and is unavailable for the visit of the back-to-back European champions while Jordan Larmour had already been confirmed absent with a calf issue picked up during the Six Nations.
More encouraging is the update on Luke McGrath, with the Ireland scrum-half suffering no issue on his return to action against the Ospreys in the wake of his recent knee injury. He will train as normal this week.
Over 46,000 tickets have been sold for what is arguably the tie of the round as the European Cup returns centre stage.