It may have been a day of farewells in Munster yesterday but Leinster are planning to welcome back a number of key figures tomorrow evening, with confirmation that Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen will play some role against the Ospreys at the RDS.
Both came through training with no reported ill-effects yesterday.
With Brad Thorn also set to make his debut and Rhys Ruddock confirming he has signed a contract to stay in Dublin for another two years, this has been a good news week for Joe Schmidt & Co. It isn’t so long since Leinster were contemplating the season’s run-in without the services of either Cullen or O’Driscoll and the recovery of the latter, two months ahead of schedule, has been as impressive as anything he has achieved on the field of play.
“He has just been very professional in his approach to his rehab,” said assistant coach, Richie Murphy. “He has done everything that has been asked of him. He seems to be in a very good physical condition.
“He is definitely a good few weeks ahead of schedule but there are no risks to him. They are very happy where he is at, the specialists have passed him fit. He seems to be in a good frame of mind.
“He hasn’t played all season and the expectation of him is going to be difficult because everyone else will have a series of games under their belts and he is coming in brand new, start of the season type thing. It will take him time to get up to speed.”
The return — and first appearance — of such experienced internationals would be welcome at any time but all the more so tomorrow given the European champions will be without the eight who started for Ireland in Twickenham last Saturday.
All are expected back in harness next week for the trip to Thomond Park, including Mike Ross whose early departure in London had such a devastating effect on the Irish scrum, while fringe internationals like Fergus McFadden and Sean Cronin may be involved this week.
Much of the Six Nations build-up focused on whether or not the performances of the provinces would have any bearing on the national XV. Now the question is being asked inside out after the painful end to the tournament for Declan Kidney’s side.
“A lot of those players haven’t come back in yet so we don’t know how they are,” said Murphy. “The focus has shifted to preparation for the Ospreys and the lead-in for the rest of the season.
“There has been a bit of a break and all the coaches have felt a step-up in intensity this week on the training field. We would hope they won’t be happy with the result at the weekend but that they will be able to put it behind them and move on.”
With their imploding regions and all-conquering national side, Wales have shown once again this year there is little or no correlation between the two while Munster won their second Heineken Cup in 2008 on the back of Ireland’s worst ever Six Nations campaign.
“They have always returned (from the Six Nations) in good spirits and ready to play for Leinster,” said Murphy. “Ospreys is a massive game which leads into Munster and then our quarter-final. We don’t really have time to look back.”
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