THE big guns that could have made such a difference to Leinster against Clermont Auvergne on Saturday are starting to trickle back to the paddock.
"Brian O'Driscoll will have his first on-pitch field session today. Rob Kearney is due to start on the pitch next week. We have to focus on the positives. We are hopeful they will make a positive impact," said coach Joe Schmidt.
"Luke (Fitzgerald) has been on the pitch for a while and either Connacht (December 29) or Edinburgh (January 4) might be an opportunity for him."
Schmidt did not try to make any excuses for Leinster's probable Heineken Cup exit at the hands of Clermont. It didn't exactly come as a shock to him.
"I was always scared that when we didn't get that result that Clermont would come back in the manner they did. Even with our full firepower, they are the sort of team that can knock you over anyway.
"The Irish teams have punched really well with what they've got. It is just they are a little bit more exposed when they've got injury. That would be all," stated Schmidt.
Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss will be out of action "for about four weeks" with a medial ligament injury, not, as feared, for five or six months with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
"On a bad news weekend, that is a massive bit of good news for us," reported Schmidt.
"We were thinking about, maybe, five months if it was his ACL."
Back three expert Isa Nacewa has deep bruising to his forearm -- "there is no sign of a break" -- and Shane Jennings took a shot to his shoulder which makes both of them unlikely against Ulster in the PRO12 League at Ravenhill for Friday night.
The doubt over Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin (concussion) could very well leave a hole for openside Jordi Murphy, who made his Heineken Cup debut as a late replacement on Saturday.
Centre Eoin O'Malley came through his first match of the season for Leinster 'A' on Sunday, as did the recently healed hooker Aaron Dundon and flanker Dominic Ryan.