herald

Monday 27 March 2017

Tullow Tank ready to roll against Saints in European Cup

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien

It would appear that Seán O'Brien, Robbie Henshaw and Rob Kearney are all winning their individual races to be on the starting line against Northampton Saints for the Champions Cup at Franklin's Gardens tomorrow night.

The Tullow Tank has shown enough in his recovery from a hip-flexor problem to probably merit his inclusion.

It may even open up the possibility of a back row completed by the on-fire Josh van der Flier and number eight Jamie Heaslip with Dan Leavy in reserve.

Jordi Murphy is unavailable and Rhys Ruddock looked just short of match practice against The Dragons last Saturday.

Centre Henshaw would have been the person of greatest concern for the province after his brutal concussion from the point of Sam Cane's shoulder.

The Athlone man has satisfied the medical staff all the way through his return-to-play protocols.

It should enable Henshaw to continue to combine with Garry Ringrose in the centre, just outside fledgling fly-half Joey Carbery.

It will come as no surprise to see Carbery slip into the number ten shirt temporarily vacated by Jonathan Sexton due to a strength and conditioning block to improve his hamstring issue.

On a wider scale, Ross Byrne has been supplemented into Leinster's Champions Cup squad, replacing the de-registered Cathal Marsh.

Given the pressure-cooker situation, club captain Isa Nacewa is likely to fill the role of the back-up fly-half and lead goal-kicker.

Kearney is an automatic choice at full-back once the graduated steps have been taken on his way back from concussion.

It is just as well given the fact Fergus McFadden has a long-term injury and the timescale for the return of Dave Kearney is shrouded in uncertainty.

There is a school of thought that Adam Byrne is beginning to challenge the pecking order even though Zane Kirchner looks like the common sense to join Nacewa as the second wing.

Coach Leo Cullen will announce the Leinster team to play Northampton around noon today.

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