Rather than ease his long-term injury absentees back into action, Schmidt has opted for a do-or-die approach and should know by the end of the game whether he can rely on his top men to help with the mission to save their Heineken Cup crown against Scarlets the following Saturday.
Already boosted by the return of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and Jonathan Sexton, Schmidt is clearly gambling on an instant impact from O'Driscoll, Kearney and Fitzgerald.
European Player of the Year Kearney has resolved the lower-back injury that has been an occasional scourge for the last seven years of his career.
Left wing Luke Fitzgerald is said to be looking super-sharp in training and he will be chomping at the bit to make his seasonal bow.
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