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Boost for Leinster as James Ryan on course to return for cup clash with Saracens

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Pictured is Leo Cullen, AsIAmAmbassador with Catalina Ryan (6, Terenure) as Aviva launch the Aviva Insurance partnership with AsIAm to give away 1,000 back-to-school packs to autistic children throughout Ireland. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Pictured is Leo Cullen, AsIAmAmbassador with Catalina Ryan (6, Terenure) as Aviva launch the Aviva Insurance partnership with AsIAm to give away 1,000 back-to-school packs to autistic children throughout Ireland. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

Pictured is Leo Cullen, AsIAmAmbassador with Catalina Ryan (6, Terenure) as Aviva launch the Aviva Insurance partnership with AsIAm to give away 1,000 back-to-school packs to autistic children throughout Ireland. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

James Ryan could be back wearing the Leinster blue in time for the Heineken Cup showdown against Saracens on September 19.

The big second row dislocated his shoulder in training and it seemed as though it would lead to a long absence for his province and for Ireland.

However Leinster coach Leo Cullen revealed yesterday that the injury happened five weeks ago and that Ryan is well down the road to recovery.

"James had an operation within a day of the injury occurring and he is on the way back, doing running and working away. Obviously the first rounds of the resuming Pro 14 are going to come much too soon for him, but James will be back in mid-September we hope," he said.

Ireland coach Andy Farrell will be delighted by that news too, with the original timeline for Ryan’s recovery making him a doubt for the final two games of the 2020 Six Nations, against Italy and France, at the end of October. Now it seems the towering lock should be well back in action by then.

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James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by George Kruis of Saracens during the 2019 Heineken Champions Cup Final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by George Kruis of Saracens during the 2019 Heineken Champions Cup Final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by George Kruis of Saracens during the 2019 Heineken Champions Cup Final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

There was good news too from Cullen of Dan Leavy, who hasn’t played rugby since suffering a horrific knee injury while playing for Leinster against Ulster in the Champions Cup quarter-final in March 2019.

"He's on his way back too," said a clearly delighted Cullen. "It’s baby steps of course, after such a long time out, but Dan is working away and training well," added the Leinster coach as he savoured the notion of including a fit-again Leavy to his many back-row options.

And he will need them all over a season that will include two Pro 14 competitions and two Heineken Cups for Leinster and as well as his many Irish players finishing a Six Nations, playing another one, playing an eight-team tournament this autumn and winter - and all topped off by a Lions Tour to South Africa for some of them next summer.

"Look, that’s just the way it is," said an unconcerned Cullen as he faces the challenges. “Not every player is going to play in every game, there will be rotation and we will look after the players well.

"One bonus of these strange times, is that we’ve had a proper pre-season," he continued.

"With every player at the same physical point. Most years, we’ve players coming off Ireland tours or Lions Tours and they come in (to start pre-season) three weeks behind everyone else.

"So we’re used to working with a group that has a month’s work done, and others that have only a week’s work done. This time, we’re all together – at the same level of preparation."

Nor has Cullen any fears of jumping in at the deep end, with Leinster having to play Munster in their first match of the season, at a closed Aviva Stadium on Saturday August 22 – a Munster side buttressed by the signings of World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman from South Africa who are allowed play in these Pro 14 matches, even though they are ’left-overs’ from the 2019/20 campaign.

"Look it is what is. Do you want to tip-toe your way into the season or start with a bang, with a big game against Munster who have certainly made a statement about where they see themselves going with these signings. It’s great for the Pro 14 that we have two lads like them coming into the league, it raises the bar for everyone," he added.

The Leinster coach was delighted to hear that his sidekick, the former England leader Stuart Lancaster, seems to be on a Warren Gatland short-list for a spot on the Lions coaching ticket next summer.

"I heard that alright. Just as our players aspire to being a Lion why shouldn’t our coaching and back-room staff too?" he insists.

Left unsaid, however, was that Cullen never seems to be mentioned for these jobs himself.

Cullen was speaking at the Aviva Stadium as Aviva partnered with AsIAM, the National Advocacy Group for children with Autism in Ireland. Aviva are distributing 1000 packs to help children cope with the return to school, after so long out of their routine.

"Isn’t there a wonderful parallel between AsIAM, trying to get kids ready for back-to-school and what we are doing on the training pitch," mused Cullen. "All of us trying to cope as best we can with a very strange situation."

Aviva Insurance have launched a partnership with AsIAm to give away 1,000 back-to-school packs to autistic children throughout Ireland. The back-to-school packs alongside weekly online content is specially designed to keep children stimulated and active in line with their sensory needs, and act as a lifeline for parents, who have been home schooling since March. For more information follow Aviva on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook using #SafeToDream or visit www.aviva.ie/onlinesensoryhub

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