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Fergus takes control

THE time may have finally come for Fergus McFadden to wrest the number 12 Leinster jersey out of the vice-like grip of Gordon D'Arcy on a permanent basis.

"HE IS in a situation where he's in control now because he's in there. I think Gordon will be under a little bit of pressure to try and get back in there," said assistant coach Richie Murphy.

"We all know what Ferg's attributes are. He is a strong, hard-running centre with good feet and very strong in the tackle."

D'Arcy has always been given first choice of the jersey when everyone is fit to play in part due to his unique set of skills and in part due to his telepathic relationship with old partner Brian O'Driscoll.

The changing of the guard has to happen sometime. McFadden's physical force made O'Driscoll's try against Munster and his speed and commitment saved another as he collared Keith Earls in retreat.

Better again, Rob Kearney has rehabilitated quickly to force his way into coach Joe Schmidt's plans. He was out training yesterday in an effort to complete his comeback from a back injury.

Ireland captain O'Driscoll, talisman Isa Nacewa and wing Andrew Conway should both be able to take their part in the Leinster side for the Heineken Cup starter against Exeter Chiefs at The RDS on Saturday.

"Brian O'Driscoll rolled an ankle. He's fine. Nothing serious. Isa Nacewa has a dead leg. He should be okay. Andy Conway (stinger) is fine," said assistant coach Richie Murphy.

The Leinster management received more good news than bad for a change when the medical reports revealed that Kevin McLaughlin is the main injury concern from those who departed against Munster.

"The positive thing is that most of the guys from the weekend will come back. We are not sure whether Kevin will recover from a hyper-extended elbow. We're still hopeful."

Thankfully, there is no bone damage to McLaughlin's elbow, merely limited ligament and muscle damage. Still, it is difficult to comprehend how he could recover in time.

The next in line is former Ireland U-20 Jordi Murphy, an openside by trade. The extent of Leinster's injury conundrum can be gauged by the fact that Schmidt may have to go with two sevens in his back row, the other being Shane Jennings.

Amount

"There are not a lot of players left with the amount of injuries that there are. There are the likes of Leo Auva'a, Ben Marshall, Jordi and the three boys that are there at the moment.

"That is really where we are. There is no doubt we are struggling in that area," said the skills and kicking coach.

It might make more sense for Schmidt to plump for the aerial athleticism of Marshall, another former Ireland U-20, at second row, who's a better fit for the blindside than Murphy.

The selection of two out-and-out opensides would cause problems against a big, aggressive, mobile offloading Exeter pack that is more than a match for the best in The Premiership.

Rhys Ruddock was back out training, but quite a distance from full fitness. Dominic Ryan and Sean O'Brien are nowhere near ready.

Club captain Leo Cullen (arm), prop Cian Healy (bicep), scrum-half Isaac Boss (arm) and D'Arcy (ribs) are likely to bring Ireland international class to the table.


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