O'Malley passes Treviso test on patient path back to full fitness
LEINSTER'S second best outside centre Eoin O'Malley "was delighted to come off the pitch in one piece" in his first start of the season at home to Benetton Treviso on Saturday night.
You can see why. It has been a sore and sorry existence for the immensely loyal and likeable O'Malley, a typically under-sized Leinster centre at 5ft10 and 14-stone in the modern rugby world of hulking men of muscle.
The 24-year-old suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury last May, the frustration at which was compounded by the fact that he had just shaken off a calf problem back then.
There have been complications to his comeback, originally cited to return to play at the end of October, he had to wait until Cardiff in February.
"There were definitely elements where I felt rusty," he said. "The more you can train, the longer you can play and things start coming back for you."
Perhaps, O'Malley's unimpressive physical dimensions have been, in part, responsible for a litany of injuries that have hampered his progress. He has made 51 appearances in four seasons.
While the King is away, the Prince can play.
O'Malley could be one flow of games away from putting himself in pole position to succeed the possibly retiring Brian O'Driscoll just as Ian Madigan has done to replace Jonathan Sexton.
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has already talked-up the importance of taking four points off fourth-placed Scarlets on Saturday. It will be a more demanding test than that offered by Treviso.
Certainly, Gareth Maule showed what he can do when outstripping Brian O'Driscoll on the outside for a sensational Heineken Cup try at Parc y Scarlets in October. He should wear thirteen.
"He is a pretty effective player for them," said O'Malley. "They actually have a very dangerous backline.
"They like to use the ball quite a lot across the pitch.
"There are a chunk of them in the Welsh squad. But, there are still a lot of them around who are dangerous runners, especially out wide."
O'Malley will be able to measure where exactly he is in his match sharpness against a Scarlets three-quarter line likely to include Maule, the feisty Liam Williams and improving fly-half Owen Williams. "I am just happy to be playing rugby and, hopefully, things will start coming together for me again, obviously, the sooner the better whether it takes a couple of weeks or months."
Injury has taught O'Malley the virtue of patience.
LEINSTER INJURY UPDATE
1. ANDREW GOODMAN: Injury – eye; Update – Took full part in training.
2. BEN MARSHALL: Injury – knee; Update – Should be fit for selection.
3. KEVIN McLAUGHLIN: Injury – knee; Update – Doubtful for The Scarlets.
4. ISA NACEWA: Injury – Forearm; Update – Doubtful for The Scarlets.
5. SHANE JENNINGS: Injury – Shoulder; Update – Should be available.
6. BRENDAN MACKEN: Injury – Hamstring; Update – Should be available.