O'Connor urges caution over O'Brien comeback chances
Leinster coach Matt O'Connor has urged caution over the suggestion that Sean O'Brien could make an early comeback from the shoulder injury that he sustained over Christmas.
O'Brien missed Ireland's triumphant Six Nations campaign and was also expected to miss the remainder of the season including Ireland's summer tour of Argentina, but the flanker revealed this week that he was ahead of schedule and that he could yet feature in the Pro12 play-offs.
Despite O'Connor acknowledging that he is progressing well, he believes that he is in no hurry to rush the 'Tullow Tank' back into action until he is ready.
"It's a day-to-day proposition with Seanie. The shoulder is responding really well. He's very comfortable with what he has done, but he hasn't done any contact yet," O'Connor said.
"He's done a fair bit of running and a fair bit of fitness work, but ultimately it will be gauged off the health of the shoulder.
"We don't want to compromise him moving forward. It's important that we get him back and in the best shape possible.
"If that's before the end of the season, it would be a huge boost to the squad.
"If it's not, then we're very comfortable in Seanie playing a significant part early next season."
Meanwhile, the new IRFU performance director David Nucifora has set the bar high for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt by declaring "winning World Cups is achievable."
The Australian, who was yesterday formally appointed on a five-year deal believed to be worth €300,000 per annum, will start in the newly created, highly powerful role on June 1.
As manager of Schmidt, the four provincial coaches, high performance manager Colin McEntee and the IRFU's technical support staff, Nucifora will effectively be charged with running the professional game and has highlighted improving the pathways to the top as a priority.
He believes players will need to be more open to moving provinces to expedite their development and play at the highest level as quickly as possible.
"As part of the development pathway you want players playing at the highest level they're capable of as early as possible," he said. "That's one thing within the Australian system that has worked very well and that's why you see such young players getting out there at international level, because we're forced to push them through."
Meanwhile, Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea has pledged that his team will continue to play with "pace and ambition" despite facing a sequence of "cup finals", beginning with Leicester today.
Quins effectively have to win all their remaining matches if they are to maintain their record of winning a trophy in each of the last three seasons. They face Northampton in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals next Friday and are chasing hard to make the Premiership semi-final play-offs.