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Saturday 25 November 2017

Prospects good for Henshaw and O'Brien to make semi-final

Leinster back row Seán O’Brien during squad training. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster back row Seán O’Brien during squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Robbie Henshaw and Seán O'Brien look more likely than Seán Cronin to make Leinster's PRO12 League semi-final.

While hooker Cronin has not been ruled out due to a neck injury, he will be tested this week.

This strongly indicates the number two berth will rest between Richardt Strauss and James Tracy.

O'Brien will have to convince coach Leo Cullen that his hamstring is fully operational in training this week.

Should he fail, Leinster are not exactly slim in the back-row department as Jack Conan continues to grow in the ongoing absence of Jamie Heaslip.

Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier are also gunning for inclusion against the Scarlets.

Meanwhile, Dominic Ryan had a procedure on his bicep which will rule the flanker out for the season, thereby concluding his Leinster career.

The main point of weakness could turn out to be the inside centre station where Henshaw aims to overcome a rattle of the rib picked up against Clermont.

Henshaw is the glue that binds the midfield together in-between Jonathan Sexton and Garry Ringrose.

The alternatives are the experience and distribution of Noel Reid against the inexperience and more direct attributes of Tom Daly.

Failing that, Ringrose could make the switch inside for Zane Kirchner or Rory O'Loughlin in what would be a compromised partnership based on a lack of game time together.

The whole of Scarlets game plan would be undermined by the failure of openside James Davies to get back from a shoulder injury.

"James has been one of the in-form sevens in the competition.

He's had a lot of man-of-the-match awards," said Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac.

"Within our ranks we rate him very highly, what he can do with the ball, what he can do at the breakdown."

Munster have received a major boost with the confirmation their out-half Tyler Bleyendaal has overcome a bicep injury to take a full part in preparations for Saturday's semi-final against the Ospreys. Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will have exhaled a sigh of relief as Munster have looked far better this season with Bleyendaal in rather than out.

It comes not long after Ian Keatley showed what a solid back-up he can be with his man-of-the-match impact against Connacht.

Dave O'Callaghan (knee), Jean Kleyn (neck), Ronan O'Mahony (fibula), Robin Copeland (shoulder), Dave Foley (wrist), Seán McCarthy (knee) and Mike Sherry (back) are still on the road to recovery.

The Ospreys will look to talismanic second row Alun Wyn Jones to stiffen their resolve in light of how far their standards have fallen at the back end of the season.

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