Blues boost as Kearney in line to return after five months on the sidelines
Rob Kearney is set to hand Leinster a major fitness boost ahead of the new season as he is in line to play Leinster's pre-season friendly against Gloucester on Friday night.
The Ireland full-back hasn't played since he injured his bicep in the Six Nations defeat to Wales last March, while he last lined out for Leinster in January.
The 31-year-old underwent surgery to repair the damage and also had a procedure done on his knee, but head coach Leo Cullen revealed that he is in line to return for the friendly at St Mary's RFC.
Kearney's younger brother Dave (ankle) could also feature following his injury-ravaged season. He trained fully yesterday and will be assessed today before a final decision is made.
Robbie Henshaw is still on track to return in mid-October. The centre saw his Lions tour curtailed with a pectoral injury that required surgery.
Jamie Heaslip (back) is not a "million miles away", while Cullen is cautiously optimistic that Garry Ringrose (shoulder) will return in October. But the head coach also warned that it may be November before the midfielder features again.
"It was a little bit more complicated so it's hard to put a definite time line on him," Cullen explained.
Johnny Sexton (wrist), Joey Carbery (ankle) and Sean Cronin (hamstring) have also returned to training but won't be back in action for a while yet.
New signing James Lowe won't arrive in Dublin until he completes his Mitre 10 commitments with New Zealand side Tasman. Leinster had been hopeful that the exciting Kiwi winger would join his new club sooner but as it is, the province will have to wait until the middle to end of October.
Cullen added that he was looking forward to the season after Leinster lost two semi-finals in the last campaign.
"There's always pressure, all the time," he admitted. "There's different pressure; look at Chelsea, they won the league last season, and Conte was probably under no pressure when he was coming in after the season they'd had - and now he's probably under huge pressure because they over achieved.
"That's the thing - does the pressure come off because he wont the league? No, it probably intensifies.
"If you look at it, I think the reason I got the job, was nobody else wanted to take the challenge on, where you're missing 16 players from the World Cup, it turned out to be 19, that's a difficult challenge - what coach wants that?"