Leinster wait on Ross for big kick-off
MIKE ROSS is the big concern for Leinster ahead of their Magners League opener away to Glasgow on Friday night.
The departure of CJ van der Linde and the long-term injury to Stan Wright has opened a path for the Cork tight-head prop to get the run of games he lacked last season and build on the scrummaging reputation he established during a successful stint in the English Premiership with Harlequins.
However, Ross missed last weekend's friendly loss to Leicester with a calf strain and Leinster are hopeful he will be available for the trip to Firhill this week. The 30-year-old will train today, with a decision to be taken on his fitness afterwards.
Leinster played Simon Shawe at tight-head last weekend and the Ballymena man coped well against the experienced Argentinian Marcos Ayerza, while Ireland U-20 prop Stewart Maguire battled hard after replacing Shawe in the second half.
Glasgow are likely to start Jon Welsh at loose-head, a powerful scrummager who, like Shawe, represented his country at club international level. Both sides are without their second-row captains as Leinster's Leo Cullen and Glasgow's Alastair Kellock are both on the long-term injury list, while the Warriors also expect to be without Canadian prop Kevin Tkachuk and Scotland centre Max Evans, who both picked up knocks in their defeat to Wasps last weekend.
Last week, Ireland manager Paul McNaughton announced that Ireland's top players would be available to the provinces for rounds one or two of the Magners League and, although Leinster's international contingent have been continuing their strength and conditioning programme this week, the province say there is a possibility that "up to two" Ireland players could be available pending fitness tests.
"When some of the international lads come back it will give the (younger) guys a lot of confidence," said kicking coach Richie Murphy.
"The players who have played so far have been the younger guys and they have had a lot of good experience, but with the senior guys coming back into the panel over the next three or four weeks it will help cement down what we're trying to do and help give us a little bit more direction."
Meanwhile, Ulster are set to start Ireland internationals Rory Best, Paddy Wallace and Stephen Ferris against champions Ospreys at Ravenhill on Friday night, with prop Tom Court expected to be introduced off the bench.
With full-backs Jamie Smyth and Bryn Cunningham on the injured list, 24-year-old Australian Adam D'Arcy is expected to make his competitive debut for the province after an impressive display against Leeds last week. The former Waratahs Academy player is due to sign a full-time contract on Friday and fill the last place in Ulster's 36-man roster for the season.
D'Arcy is included in Brian McLaughlin's 29-man squad to face an Ospreys outfit that starts the defence of their title with those four points deducted following the cancellation of their game against Ulster last season due to a lack of prop forwards. Their appeal is due to be heard later next week.
McLaughlin is expected to partner Tim Barker with Johann Muller in the second-row and Muller's fellow Springbok Pedrie Wannenburg packing down at No 8.
In the backs, scrum-half Paul Marshall has recovered from a shoulder injury and is set to partner Niall O'Connor at half-back, with Wallace and Ian Whitten forming the midfield partnership.