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Saturday 16 December 2017

Cup clash set for sellout as Fitzgerald eyes return

LEINSTER are well on the way to a sell-out crowd for the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Cardiff Blues at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, April 7.

They have sold 46,000 tickets already as success off the pitch continues to reflect the positivity on it.

The PRO12 League leaders will make their way to Aironi on Friday night to consolidate their position.

They will do so in the full knowledge that the club could have Italy full-back Andrea Masi, wing Gio Venditi and locks Quintin Geldenhuys and Marco Bortalami back on board.

At the very least, coach Rowland Phillips should be able to commandeer three international bench replacements in hooker Tommaso D'Apice, prop Fabio Staibano and flanker Simone Favaro.

Leinster should be able to call on the services of back-row forward Rhys Ruddock, but, perhaps not Kevin McLaughlin, as Ireland coach Declan Kidney looks to maximise preparations for France on Sunday.

"Selfishly, I'd like them to be playing (for Leinster), but if the national demand is that that's the best way that they're served then that's their prerogative. That's the national team's right," said Leinster forwards coach, Jono Gibbes.

Leinster should finally have Luke Fitzgerald back, as long as he can handle contact training tomorrow, according to Gibbes.



positive

"If he passes that then I think that's the last sort of box he needs to tick.

"Signs are pretty positive that he'll be involved this weekend."

There is also an outside chance of New Zealand fly-half Mat Berquist coming into contention after five months out with a fractured patella.

Club captain Leo Cullen is making good progress in his recovery from an Achilles operation and Brian O'Driscoll has not had any setback in his battle to regain full fitness.

There were no adverse reactions for flanker Dominic Ryan from his first start in over three months in Scotland, or for winger Andrew Conway's return after a three-month lay-off.

There has been no movement on the Brad Thorn transfer because his club is still involved in the Japanese league and any significant injury would rule out the possibility of the World Cup winner moving to Leinster.

This is an issue that can't be rushed.

Leinster have no choice but to wait for Thorn to play out his contract before they finalise plans to bring him to Dublin early next month.

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