Sunday 18 August 2019

Leinster upbeat on Sean Cronin fitness as they hope to name an unchanged team against Saracens

Seán Cronin of Leinster leaves the pitch with an injury accompanied by Leinster team doctor Prof John Ryan during the Heineken Champions Cup Semi-Final match between Leinster and Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Seán Cronin of Leinster leaves the pitch with an injury accompanied by Leinster team doctor Prof John Ryan during the Heineken Champions Cup Semi-Final match between Leinster and Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster are hopeful of fielding an unchanged side in the Heineken Champions Cup final against Saracens.

Senior coach Stuart Lancaster was upbeat on the chances of Sean Cronin recovering from the calf injury he suffered in the semi-final against Toulouse in time to take his place as hooker in the starting XV.

With Jamison Gibson-Park still struggling with a hamstring problem, James Lowe and Scott Fardy look set to be retained with fit-again Rhys Ruddock likely to be named on the bench.

Cronin will be managed this week having not trained since the semi-final three weeks' ago, but Lancaster is optimistic about his chances.

"We’re optimistic. I mean he hasn't trained yet. He didn't train last week. It's a calf injury," he said.

"We're planning on doing a session today and then tomorrow we've got a full training session. He might take part in that depending on how today goes. But we're  pretty optimistic that he'll be right for.

"We'll definitely give him until Thursday because he's such an important player. Hes been outstanding. He won the award of the Players Player so yeah he's good for us.

"There's nothing wrong with Rhys so he is available for selection. He gone through the Return to Play protocols and he'll be back at training this afternoon.

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"He (Gibson-Park) had a hamstring in the Glasgow game. He hasn't trained with us yet but still probably not panned to train until later this week.

"It's probably tight for this weekend but it's a bonus for him coming back with a semi-final in mind after this weekend, plus the other bonus of Josh van der Flier being back, potentially available to train this week with a view to play next week as well.

"It would be too short notice for (van der Flier this week). But that's the bonus. he's done brilliantly to get back from that groin injury and a real boost for the squad.

"The Toulouse game we went with Scott and James (Lowe). They both played pretty well."

Gibson-Park’s likely absence means Meathman Hugh O'Sullivan would be named in the No 21 jersey, covering scrum-half.

And Lancaster has confidence he’ll perform if needed.

"He has trained right the way throughout the season and he's played some big games, he's started and he came off the bench in the Toulouse game," he said.

"He's a confident young man and that's what you need in a scrum-half, I'm delighted for him the progress he has made this year. He's got the full confidence of the squad.

"He'd be more apprehensive if he hadn't done the work in training but he's been in there right from the very start, so, he's good to go."

Lancaster is expecting a mammoth test against a Saracens team he knows well at St James' Park in Newcastle.

"You've got to respect the quality of the performances that they've put in, it's not just the results," he said.

"They pretty much controlled the pool from the start. Two great wins, in the quarter-final, 50 odd points and 30 odd points in the semi-final.

"So, yeah, we know them well, I know them well obviously, know a lot of their players.

"The one thing I would say is that I think we're in a similar position last year. We won six from six, quarter-final, semi-final and I think we got the lead in the final on 78 minutes and 30 seconds at 15-12, so, what happens in the lead up to a final and what happens in a final are two different things.

"We're very respectful of what they can offer both as an attacking team but also as a defensive team as well.

"Their aerial threat, they've got world class players in a lot of the positions and are very good, strong team spirit, work-ethic for each other.

"They’re brilliantly coached by Mark McCall and his team, I know Mark well. I have a lot of respect for the way he's built the club.

"We're pretty confident ourselves as well, we took Toulouse who have just put 80 points on Pau. You could argue that maybe it wasn't the biggest challenge for them but the number of tries they scored through the course of the season and the quality of the tries, to hold them to no tries, to beat them by 30 odd points as we did in the semi-final shows that we're in decent form as well."

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