Thursday 21 November 2019

Lowe on course for the decider

James Lowe
James Lowe

The stage is set for Leinster left wing James Lowe to wreak havoc on Saracens in the Champions Cup final in Newcastle on Saturday evening (KO 5.0, Virgin Media 1, CH4, BT Sport).

The three-into-two-won't-go mathematical equation that usually hangs over Lowe, Scott Fardy and Jamison Gibson-Park could well be redundant as the latter struggles to overcome a hamstring strain.

Senior coach Stuart Lancaster is not too optimistic about Gibson-Park's fitness, making Academy half-back Hugh O'Sullivan, 21, likely to take his place on the bench. At least, this would remove the uncertainty over the involvements of Lowe and Fardy, two of Leinster's main men. Don't forget, Lowe provided those two moments against Saracens last year to set up Garry Ringrose for the first try and collect the third himself.

Lancaster is "optimistic" Sean Cronin can recover from a calf strain that caused his removal against Toulouse in the semi-final.

"We're going to do units today (Monday) and then tomorrow (Tuesday), he said. "He'll take part in that and, if it all goes well, then he should be able to train properly on Thursday."

Otherwise, the pecking order suggests James Tracy would be seeded to start with Bryan Byrne stationed for the bench.

Rhys Ruddock has come through his return-to-play protocols to throw his hat into the ring. The natural blindside is a clear option to start with Fardy on the bench or to enter the final quarter as Leinster's impact man.

The outcome there may well come down to the role of the bench in countering Saracens' muscle men.

In addition, Andrew Porter is scheduled to return to training this week from a pectoral muscle problem. The tight-head could add to the impact department in a straight choice between Porter and Michael Bent to back up Tadhg Furlong.

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