Friday 22 November 2019

We can win it without O'Driscoll

McFadden poised to step in if centre loses fitness race

Hugh Farrelly

Leinster are "confident" Brian O'Driscoll will be fit to play in tomorrow's Heineken Cup final against Northampton in Cardiff but are adamant they will cope even if their inspirational centre is ruled out.

The Ireland captain ran at three-quarter pace during yesterday's training session and Leinster are banking on him taking a full part in today's Captain's Run.

However, if O'Driscoll fails to fully recover from the knee injury sustained last week, coach Joe Schmidt says Fergus McFadden's superb form means they are capable of overcoming the setback.

"I think we can cope if Brian doesn't quite make it," said Schmidt. "If he wasn't able to play we'd always be able to shift things around. Fergus McFadden has been massive for us this year, a real pocket battleship for us.

"It's my decision and it will be my head on the block if it's not the right decision," added Schmidt.

"We'll give him a little bit of a run-out before we fly tomorrow morning and then he'll have a full stretch out in Cardiff, but we will certainly take someone to cover him should he pull up lame at the Captain's Run."

Richardt Strauss has been Leinster's other major injury worry, but Schmidt said the hooker "will be available to be selected" in a side that could closely resemble the XV that started the epic semi-final victory over Toulouse.

A decision on whether the roof of the Millennium Stadium will be open or closed is due to be taken by the ERC this morning. Based on the memorable atmosphere and post-match presentation ceremony in 2008 when Munster triumphed in Cardiff's last final, the roof could well be closed.

"If the weather's good, we'd probably prefer it to be open," said Schmidt. "If the weather's not going to be good, then it might be better if it is closed and then we could preserve the best conditions to play in."

Meanwhile, more than 20,000 tickets have been snapped up for the Magners League Grand Final between Munster and Leinster in Thomond Park next weekend. Leinster supporters have taken up 6,000 tickets and the 26,000-capacity stadium is expected to be sold out by early next week.

The story of Leinster's seven coaches in the Heineken Cup era.

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