Friday 18 January 2019

O'Brien a major doubt for start of Champions Cup

Leinster assistant coach Richie Murphy declared "I wouldn't hang my hat" on Seán O'Brien or Luke Fitzgerald playing a part in the first two rounds of the Rugby Champions Cup.

"We're not sure on our return-to-play date, at the moment," said Murphy about O'Brien.

The Carlow forward has more than one problem with which to deal: "The ankle is the main problem, at the moment. But, he has had a shoulder thing going on. I think he's going to see someone in relation to that this week."

The removal of O'Brien and long-term hamstring victim Cian Healy would seriously reduce Leinster's explosive elements.

It is just as well Rhys Ruddock looks like continuing on from where he left off last season and Dominic Ryan is beginning to look at home again in the number seven jersey.

And it is just as well Ryan will have Saturday night against Munster to prove to coach Matt O'Connor he deserves to hold out Shane Jennings, who is on his way back from a hamstring strain.

Left wing Fitzgerald is making his way back from a long-term groin injury and the latest estimation is that he will return "in the next two-to-three weeks", added Murphy.

The absence of Fitzgerald would not be felt as keenly as O'Brien for the simple fact that he has not played since last March.

Hooker Richardt Strauss is back in full training with a view to getting some game time this week and a decision will be made later in the week about the availability of Zane Kirchner and Kevin McLaughlin.

Centre Noel Reid is probably looking at Zebre, while Dave Kearney and Jordi Murphy will not be back until November.

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