Wednesday 26 September 2018

Leinster left sweating over O'Brien fitness for Montpellier

Sean O'Brien is out of Sunday's big game. Photo: Sportsfile
Sean O'Brien is out of Sunday's big game. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Sean O'Brien is a major doubt for Leinster's European Champions Cup opener against Montpellier on Saturday after missing training at UCD yesterday.

The flanker and captain Isa Nacewa are the province's main injury doubts ahead of the pivotal RDS clash against the star-studded Top 14 outfit, who have recruited heavily ahead of the new campaign.

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster was upbeat on Nacewa's prospects of making an earlier-than-expected return, but he was more cautious on the Lion's availability.

"We'll see how he plays out throughout the week. There's been no definitive decision yet," he said.

"It will depend on the next 24-48 hours. I was really pleased how the back-row went last week.

"Josh van der Flier was excellent, Rhys Ruddock was excellent, Jack Conan was very good and Jordi (Murphy) was on the bench.

"If Seánie doesn't pull through, I'm still very happy where we are at."

Lancaster believes the Irish European challenge is strong this year.

"The expectations should be there for the Irish teams," he said.

"There are four quality teams. If you look at the players, I don't see any reason why the Irish teams can't be competitive right at the top of the European table.

"It will be a fantastic benchmark this weekend and next weekend."

Meanwhile, the final Guinness PRO14 qualifying place for next season's European Champions Cup will be decided by a play-off.

The competition is operating on a two-conference basis this season and the top three European sides in each will qualify automatically for the marquee tournament.

The fourth-ranked European teams in both conferences will meet on the first weekend in May with a chance to qualify for the Champions Cup.

The new South African sides, Southern Kings and Cheetahs, cannot qualify for the Champions Cup tournament under current rules.

Irish Independent

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