An exact return date remains unclear, but the signs are that Cian Healy will not just make the Rugby World Cup but that the powerful prop will feature in the warm-up clashes.
Leinster skills coach Richie Murphy, who is also part of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland coaching staff, suggested as much yesterday when reporting that the loosehead’s neck surgery had gone encouragingly well last week.
Healy is one of Ireland’s accepted world-class performers and the hope is that he will be able to take some part in the preparatory outings against Wales (twice), Scotland and England in August and early September.
“He should play some part in those games as well,” said Murphy. “It depends. Once he starts rehab, we will get a better idea of where he is. The state of play at the moment is that they are very happy with how the operation went and that he has got some pain relief already.”
Healy’s season, like those of Luke Fitzgerald and Sean Cronin just before him, has thus been ended prematurely by injury as attention turns away from Leinster’s limp finish to the PRO12 and towards the run-in to RWC 2015.
With Munster and Ulster involved in league semi-finals and Connacht facing a possible European Champions Cup play-off against Gloucester, it could be that the Ireland team to face the Barbarians in Limerick on May 28 is almost a Leinster side in disguise.
“There is obviously a little bit going on in the background there,” said Murphy. “I have been fairly busy here so I have been touching base with (Schmidt) every couple of days to find out what is going on. There is no makeup to the squad yet.
“I think he will wait to see who is in the semi-finals, as in who is playing who, and you’ll get a better idea at that stage. Obviously, Leinster will have quite a lot of players involved because they don’t have a lot else to do that weekend.”
There is still the minor matter of their last PRO12 appointment of the current season to dispense with: a trip to Edinburgh where a win is required to guarantee fifth spot in the table and increase the possibility of a higher Champions Cup seeding.
Shane Jennings is fit again after concussion and in contention to play one last time before retiring, while there doesn’t appear to have been any new injury concerns to have arisen from Friday’s grim 10-0 defeat of Benetton Treviso at the RDS.
Whatever Saturday’s result, the end-of-season review will make for grim work and it appears Leinster’s acquisition portfolio has already closed and that no-one new will follow Jonathan Sexton, Isa Nacewa and Mick Kearney in the door post-summer.
Head coach Matt O’Connor did suggest after confirmation of those new contracts last month that one or two more signings were in the pipeline as the province prepares for an exodus of their top stars for the World Cup period.
“I don’t think there is,” said Murphy. “Our squad is our squad. There might be one or two guys you might be able to call on from outside to bolster it. That’s why you have an academy and a strong academy.
“Those guys are going to have a lot of pressure on them early season when they are going to have to play games (during the World Cup). I don’t think there is going to be a massive amount of people from outside.”
Leinster have already started the process of integrating the next generation with talents including centre Garry Ringrose and out-half Ross Byrne, both of them due to play Junior World Cup in Italy this summer, among those in line for promotion.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved