O'Driscoll and Heaslip fitness boost for Leinster
LEINSTER received a massive boost yesterday when they were able to select Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip in their side to take on Clermont Auvergne in their Heineken Cup rematch at Lansdowne Road this evening (5.45).
O'Driscoll has not played since injuring his jaw for Ireland against Argentina at the end of November, but comes back into the midfield for Eoin O'Malley, who fractured a rib in last weekend's 20-13 defeat at the Stade Marcel Michelin.
Heaslip was forced off with an ankle injury just after half-time in the same match, but is named in the back-row, with Dominic Ryan ready to come in if the No 8 fails to come through the warm-up. Rhys Ruddock will take Ryan's place on the bench if Heaslip is ruled out.
"A decision will be made on Jamie in the warm-up," said Schmidt. "He is being given time to see if we can get the swelling down and get enough movement in the ankle that he can play. At the moment I am quietly confident that he will make it."
In other changes, Eoin Reddan comes back in at scrum-half for Isaac Boss, with Cian Healy starting at loose-head prop ahead of Heinke van der Merwe.
More than 45,000 tickets have been sold for the clash, but are still available from usual outlets, including Ticketmaster booths outside the grounds and the Spar shop in Donnybrook.
With 1,200 Clermont fans travelling, Schmidt's side will enjoy a significant advantage support-wise and the coach believes this can be critical to the outcome this evening.
"It's great to welcome any high-quality team here," he said. "It's what gets spectators excited and I thought the quality of last week's game was fantastic."
Meanwhile, Munster and Ospreys may have to play their Heineken Cup tussle behind closed doors if further snowfalls in Wales result in a potential safety risk for the some 15,000 spectators expected at the Liberty Stadium.
About 5,000 Munster fans are due to flock to Swansea for this afternoon's match (3.30).
However, because Ospreys deploy undersoil heating, the match must take place at the stadium, at the risk of the club forfeiting the match points.
Ireland and Lions wing Tommy Bowe will start at outside centre for the Ospreys, who need to win to avoid elimination, while Munster's starting team is unchanged, with Donnacha Ryan replacing the suspended Paul O'Connell on the bench.