Sean O’Brien set for spell on sidelines as Leo Cullen calls for Leinster to bounce back
Leinster coach Leo Cullen says Sean O’Brien remains weeks away from a return to action as he continues to recover from an inner-ear issue.
The Ireland star is not available for Sunday’s match against Toulon and is unlikely to feature in the return leg at the Aviva Stadium in a week’s time, but Cullen said he is making progress in his recovery since discovering the issue in the aftermath of the concussion he suffered against Wasps last month.
The Tullow native met with a specialist earlier this week and took a limited part in training as the preparations for the visit to Stade Felix Mayol this weekend.
“Sean saw a specialist that he’s seen a few times, he went back at the start of the week. He’s still under fatigue, suffering a balance problem,” Cullen said.
“He’s made good progress, probably not enough. We’re just not taking any risks. It’s a slightly unusual issue, if he did get a bang he’d be more susceptible to dizziness. But he’s making progress.
“When he feels better, yeah. We’ll send him back and get him assessed. It’s a couple of weeks away.
“The issue is something that’s underlying since the World Cup maybe, since he came back and took a bang in the Wasps game and it’s similar to concussion symptoms wise but the diagnosis is that it’s more related to this ear issue. It’s positive, he’s dealing with the ear specialist.”
Cullen is confident that Rob Kearney can hit the ground running after enduring a frustrating period with a back injury that saw him pulled out of the team to face Ulster in the interprovincial clash two weeks ago, before his comeback game against Glasgow Warriors fell victim to the weather.
“Rob hasn’t played a huge amount with Glasgow called off, there were a couple of players who could have benefited from it going ahead,” Cullen said.
“He’s very experienced, he had high intensity games at the World Cup. He prepped for Scarlets and Ulster even though he didn’t play in that one, but he’s done the lead-in weeks and hasn’t been far away.
“A few of the other longer term guys are a while away, Mick Kearney, Ed Byrne, Jack Conan and Luke McGrath whose recovery from his medial ligament injury is slower than we’d have liked.”
Like Leinster, Toulon got off to a losing start against Wasps but have bounced back since their defeat at the Ricoh Arena, hammering Clermont Auvergne and Agen in the Top 14.
“They went away to Clermont and won 35-9 and that was a pretty good statement. They’re a formidable side, packed with quality. They looked a bit disjointed against Wasps with guys coming back from the World Cup,” he said.
“I think you’ve got to be hugely respectful of the ball. If you turn it over they will punish you.
“We hung in with them in the quarter-final, but we overthrew a lineout and turned over the ball and they scored tries and got away.
“Last year, in the semi-final, the weather wasn’t ideal for either team. We ran them pretty close, had our chance to win the game and didn’t take it and that again highlights the importance of taking your opportunities.
“Everybody’s hurting from the first two rounds and we want to do ourselves justice.”
Leinster have meanwhile confirmed that Hayden Triggs is out for six weeks after undergoing ankle surgery.