Friday 25 May 2018

Key trio Edin' for return

Smile back on Schmidt's face after win over Connacht and news that Kearney, Drico and Fitzgerald are back this week

LEINSTER coach Joe Schmidt is "quietly confident" that Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald will make the frame for Friday night's PRO12 League date in Edinburgh.

In addition, wing Dave Kearney and centre Eoin O'Malley should also be free of injury to put their hands in the air for involvement against the Scottish club, coached by Michael Bradley.

"We could see Luke, Brian, Dave, Rob and Eoin all training fully this week and available for selection. That is a prospect that would be ideal," said Schmidt.

The importance of centre O'Driscoll and full-back Kearney, the reigning European Player of the Year, cannot be overstated. They provide the highest standards in excellence.

"They will be doing some graduated contact during the week. But, they are both very confident about it. Contact wasn't really the issue for them," stated Schmidt.

"It was more the discomfort of trying to run, with Brian the ankle, with Rob the back. We don't foresee that there will be any problems. But, we're not going to take any risks either."

It could also be the hour of Fitzgerald's first involvement this season since his neck injury and the drawn contract saga that sees him playing to save his Leinster career over the next six months.

"To be honest, I am really confident about both of them and Luke as well and Eoin. Gee, I'd love to have a really good (selection) headache this week because I've had some bad headaches in recent weeks.

"The problem I do have is that, if we do get them back for Edinburgh, it is not a lot of time to knit ourselves back together and we have to chase big games, Scarlets and Exeter away in the following two weeks.

"It would be nice to get a run of two or three games with those guys available and challenging for spots. But, it's not a perfect world, unfortunately."

The positive news didn't end there. Flanker Kevin McLaughlin "hurt his shoulder in the warm-up before the Ulster game". He was scheduled to take contact today.

Fiji international Isa Nacewa is deemed more likely to return from deep bone bruising to his forearm against the Scarlets in the Heineken Cup the week after this.

The 'galacticos' are on their way back at the same time that Leinster put a stop to their three-match rot, handing Connacht a 17-0 defeat at The RDS to move into fifth in the PRO12 League.

It didn't come easily. The young guns came loaded fully enough to take down The Western Province, 18-year-old Adam Byrne, a product of Naas rugby club, making his debut as a replacement on the right wing.

"When the young guys get out there and fire - they showed a fair bit of mettle out there - it is always a reminder that they want to chase the jersey that the older guys have got," said Schmidt.

"That is one of the things over the last two years that has been a real strength in the side - the competition for places. That hasn't existed this year because whoever has been fit has played."

The injury jinxed Andrew Conway was forced from the field of play with quite a bad dead leg and he must be considered an improbable candidate for Edinburgh.

Schmidt was known to be absolutely irate at the officiating of Irish referee John Lacey at the scrum when Leinster lost out to The Ospreys in the first week in November.

There was a sense of déjà vu on Saturday night: "Again, we're pretty happy with the scrum. It bears looking at again. For me, (we were) particularly disappointed with the five-metre scrums," sounded Schmidt.

Clearly, former Shannon wing Lacey was not on Schmidt's Christmas card list for what the Leinster coach felt was another indictable display at scrum time.

"It is not a referee that has given us a lot of reward on five-metres scrums. It was the same as The Ospreys really. We will go back to the drawing board. We will write our report and send it in and see if we can get some action."

It is safe to suggest Schmidt would be satisfied to see the back of Lacey for the season.

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