Saturday 21 September 2019

Clean bill of health for Leinster as Rob Kearney returns to training ahead of Pro 12 showdown with Connacht

23 May 2016; Rob Kearney of Leinster arrives for squad training at UCD in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
23 May 2016; Rob Kearney of Leinster arrives for squad training at UCD in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Tom Rooney

Aside from those nursing long term injuries, Leinster coach Leo Cullen will have a full group of players to choose from for Saturday’s Pro 12 final against Connacht at Murrayfield.

Following their 30 -18 semi-final victory over Ulster at the RDS last Friday, there had been initial concerns regarding the fitness of Isa Nacewa and Ben Te’o, both of whom were replaced in the second half.

However, Leinster backs coach Girvan Dempsey confirmed that the duo will be available for the season-defining clash against the Westeners.

Following an x-ray on his arm, Nacewa has been given a clean bill of health, while Te’o’s calf problem is not serious.

Furthermore, Dempsey revealed that a slight glute issue will not hamper Johnny Sexton’s participation, and that Rob Kearney, who missed the semi final, has returned to training after overcoming an ankle injury.

“Isa Nacewa had a scan on his arm, and the x-ray came back clear which we’re delighted with. Ben Te’o had a slight tight calf but he’s fine,” Dempsey said at Leinster HQ this afternoon.

“Rob Kearney is back running around in training today, so he’s aback in contention. Johnny Sexton had a little bang on his glute but he seems fine, it’s just a bit tight.

“We’re not too bad come this point of the season. We’re actually pleased to nearly have a full squad to pick from. We had a few bumps and bruises after an attritional game against Ulster last Friday night but thankfully the guys have come through all right.”

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Indeed, after an often deflating season in south Dublin, things  can now finish on a considerable high, were Leinster to clinch their fifth league title in Edinburgh.

The Blues resembled the force of old in a blistering opening 40 minutes against Ulster, in what was certainly the finest half of rugby they’ve produced all season.

The display felt all the more profound in light of 30-6 spanking they received at the Kingspan Stadium just three weeks ago.

Dempsey attributed the bravura collective showing to work done on the training paddock and the raucous environment conjured by the home support.

“We always feel that we’re capable of that, it was just a matter of getting time together as a group to gel and get our bits and pieces right in training.

“And, as our players spoke about in the changing room afterwards, they fed off the crowd and the atmosphere, which was incredible. The players said it was the best atmosphere they’ve experienced in the RDS for a while,” he said.

Leinster’s disastrous Champions Cup campaign and often disjointed game plans have meant that the freshman coaching ticket led by Leo Cullen has received a considerable amount of criticism over the course of the campaign.

Though as bulk supplier to the national side, losing their core group of players for the almost the full duration of the World Cup and Six Nations has hardly been ideal in terms of continuity.

Subsequently, some might venture that adding to the trophy cabinet for the first time in two seasons could be viewed as an overachievement. Dempsey doesn’t agree.

“I don’t think so (overachieving). I think we as a club, and as a group of players, we wanted to achieve silverware at the start of the season. I think it’s a testament to the group of players that we have, that the guys have slotted in and done really well.

“It was one of our targets at the start of the season to win silverware, and we’ve put ourselves into that position. It’s cup final rugby which is always tough, but we know what we have to do – we’ve got to produce again on Saturday.”

One undeniable positive this season has been the blooding in of some exceptional young talent. Namely Josh van der Flier, Garry Ringrose and Ross Molony, all of who Dempsey said were not just beneficiaries of circumstance, but their own gumption.

“You just look through the academy players who have stepped up and progressed on - it’s (about) taking the opportunity.

“As Leo has mentioned, we’ve used 56 players in the whole tournament which has been incredible, and everyone has played their part in getting us where we are now.”

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