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Fitzgerald on track to return against ospreys

Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald could be in line for a sooner-than-expected return to action for Leinster against The Ospreys in the Magners League at The RDS on Friday night.

This unexpected New Year's present follows Fitzgerald's successful rehabilitation from a knee injury. Coach Joe Schmidt will wait to make a decision about his availability on Thursday morning.

In addition, the Irish influence will be further strengthened by the presence of Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Jonathan Sexton, Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip in union with the seamless transition back from injury of flanker Kevin McLaughlin.

McLaughlin was at pains to admit he suffered for an unplanned 80-minute contribution against Connacht on Saturday evening after seven months out of the game with a combination of shoulder and knee injuries.

The ligament damage to his left knee and the tear in his right shoulder put him into a knee brace for eight weeks and, after that, a sling for three weeks. McLaughlin had to go back to war without the requisite contact work.

"It was worse the second morning (Monday). I woke up and could barely move my neck or my shoulder. I came in for a massage and nearly jumped off the bed," he said.

"The plan was to see how I was at half-time with a view to getting me off, at the latest, on 50 minutes.

"When I saw Seanie (O'Brien) go off early and (Nathan) Hinesy carrying a shoulder at half-time, I knew there was a chance I had to play the whole game.

"It is great to be back."

McLaughlin has had to look on as Ireland Under-20s Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan have made their moves, and Sean O'Brien -- he has been given the medical all clear from a cut above his eye on Saturday -- has simply moved onto a super-human level.

"When someone gets injured, someone else steps up. It is extremely competitive," he said.

News on the injury front is worse for Munster as hooker Jerry Flannery is set to miss the next three weeks after a new calf strain sustained as a replacement in last Saturday's defeat of Ulster at Thomond Park.

Flannery won't be available for the round five (away to Toulon) and six (home to London Irish) Heineken Cup games.