Leinster hoping for clean bill of health
Leinster supporters are hoping for good news today, when the province give their injury update following last Friday's bruising 18-3 Magners League semi-final victory over Ulster ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Northampton.
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll heads the list of injury concerns after damaging his knee, while hooker Richardt Strauss took a heavy blow to the hip. Props Mike Ross (shoulder) and Cian Healy (thigh) also left the fray early on Friday but are expected to recover, as is scrum-half Isaac Boss (hamstring).
In the nightmare scenario of O'Driscoll being ruled out, the in-form Fergus McFadden would be the natural replacement in the centre. But Strauss' removal would mean a likely start for Jason Harris-Wright, who has impressed in his appearances this season but lacks experience, while the South African has been in stunning form.
As expected, there were no disciplinary issues arising out of O'Driscoll's altercation with Ulster's Chris Henry after 11 minutes. Referee Nigel Owens dealt with the incident at the time and both players appeared satisfied after talking to the Welsh official.
Meanwhile, Northampton coach Jim Mallinder said his side "had a clean bill of health" after their 11-3 English Premiership semi-final defeat to Leicester at Welford Road. In a tough, physical contest, the Saints were forced to make 127 tackles to the Tigers' 48 and, with a day less than Leinster before their Millennium Stadium showdown, the focus will be on rest at Franklin's Gardens.
However, Mallinder was furious that Leicester -- who Leinster defeated 17-10 in the Heineken Cup quarter-final at Lansdowne Road -- were not reduced to 14 men for Manu Tuilagi's three-punch attack on Chris Ashton with half-an-hour gone.
"That should have been a red card. You cannot take a man out the way he did, with three obvious punches to the head, and stay on the field," said Mallinder.
The England-qualified, Samoan-born centre faces a lengthy ban that could rule him out of the Premiership final but Ashton is expected to start in Cardiff. A bigger doubt could be Tom Wood, with the flanker in a race against time to recover from a leg-break sustained last month.