ROB KEARNEY is close to committing his future to Leinster after his representatives met with the province and IRFU regarding a new deal.
While the player is not believed to have yet signed a contract extension, the European champions are confident that he will commit to their cause next season.
The news will come as a major boost after Jonny Sexton's departure was confirmed 11 days ago in the wake of their Heineken Cup pool stage exit. The out-half's departure sparked fears that the Lions full-back could follow his team-mate out the door. Kearney turned down a €500,000 a year offer to go to France in 2011 and has again attracted Top 14 interest as his contract runs out at the end of the season.
Since Sexton's move to France was announced, Leinster and the union nailed down the futures of Cian Healy and Mike Ross last week, with Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald, Leo Cullen, Quinn Roux and Brian O'Driscoll all also out of contract at the end of the current campaign.
Meanwhile, Keith Earls is scheduled to see a specialist about his shoulder injury on Thursday ahead of Sunday's game with England. With Gordon D'Arcy also suffering with a dead leg, Ireland's options in the centre are looking threadbare.
If one or both of D'Arcy and Earls end up being ruled out of the game, Declan Kidney will have to turn to either Leinster's Fergus McFadden or Ulster's Darren Cave in a collision that could end up deciding the Six Nations championship.
Injured Pape ruled out
Saint-Andre has made one enforced change to his side, with injured captain Pascal Pape replaced by Toulon lock Jocelino Suta. Thierry Dusautoir will take the armband in the absence of Pape.