LEINSTER manager Guy Easterby has admitted that the European champions are facing a race against time to find their form before their Heineken Cup defence begins.
With less than three weeks to go to their opening pool game at home to Exeter Chiefs, the province are still filtering their international players back into the fold, with Rob Kearney expected to return against Connacht in Galway on Friday.
They follow that trip to the Sportsground with a home derby against Munster at Lansdowne Road, and then the countdown to Europe begins.
Joe Schmidt's side have won two of their opening three Pro12 games but, while there have been moments of sparkle, the overall performances have been clunky and the New Zealander admitted that he is nervous about the weeks ahead after Saturday's narrow win over Edinburgh.
Ireland training at Carton House has disrupted preparations for this week's game, while Gordon D'Arcy and Eoin Reddan will also have disjointed training, having remained with the province to receive treatment in an attempt to recover from injury for Friday.
Easterby admitted that he is worried by the lack of cohesion that the schedule has allowed.
"Of course there is a time pressure," he said. "The coaches don't like looking past what is in front of them. For me, I'm a bit removed from that side of things. You have a huge game at the Aviva against Munster after a horrendously tough game against Connacht, with them having a full deck.
"It is a concern because that rhythm is very difficult to come by when you are having to change the starting 15 and 23 each week.
"Connacht's training won't be compromised by national camp and they rested a lot of players last week. They have a lot more depth in their squad this season, but they did rest half of what would be termed their first-team regulars in a narrow loss in Glasgow.
"So they will be fantastically prepared for this week and we have been compromised in our preparation. That one will be tough, then the Munster match and the two Heineken games."
To stress the point, Easterby went through the number of alterations that Schmidt has had to make to his team each week. He made six changes between their opening-day defeat to Scarlets and their win over the Dragons, 11 a week later against Treviso and seven for Saturday's victory over Edinburgh.
With just one day's training for the full squad ahead of a tricky trip west, there is little time to ensure that the squad can play their way into form.
"We are obviously struggling to find our rhythm at the moment," Easterby acknowledged. "The fact that we are trying to integrate players, that continuity is very hard to get.
"For the players and the coaches it is difficult. The players want to find a rhythm and we are trying to do a balancing act between getting people game time and finding a continuity, and it is almost like you are playing two sets of pre-season matches with the internationals coming back. They are not back until the third game and they need time to find their feet.
"From a coach's point of view, I genuinely feel quite sorry for them because they are trying to manage them as best they can."
Not that Eric Elwood is likely to shed any tears when he casts an eye on the resources that Schmidt is expected to be able to call on.
The rib injury that forced D'Arcy off on Saturday is unlikely to keep him out of action, while Richardt Strauss is expected to return. Kearney will also come into the reckoning, but Reddan faces a race to be fit after injuring his quad muscle in Friday's captain's run before Edinburgh's visit.
On Kearney's slower return than his international colleagues, Easterby said the full-back had to deal with a number of niggles that delayed his comeback.
"He has been fantastic for Leinster and Ireland over the last while," he said.
"It was important to get him right before we got him back on the pitch because he is an important part of what we can do."