Friday 25 May 2018

McFadden a doubt as Blues aim to turn screw on Ulster

Conor George

Conor George

FERGUS McFADDEN remains a doubt for Leinster as they prepare for tomorrow night's inter-provincial Pro 12 clash against Ulster at the RDS (6.15).

The utility back trained with the squad yesterday, but assistant coach Richie Murphy confirmed that the fractured rib injury he sustained when on international duty with Ireland remains "tender" and professed that tomorrow night's game might just be a week too soon for the 26-year-old.

In McFadden's expected absence Leinster are likely to choose between Eoin O'Malley and Brendan Macken for a place in the centre alongside veteran Gordon D'Arcy.

"We looked at both in training today and will make a decision overnight," said Murphy.

"Brendan is maturing quite well. He is a big lad, somewhere around 95 kilos and has great speed off the mark.

"He is well suited to the outside channel, because even though he is big, he is quite light on his feet and has great acceleration.

DYNAMIC

"Eoin is slightly different. He is smaller, but is very dynamic and is an incredibly good passer of the ball. They both bring something different to the position."

Leinster's management must also decide who of their returning internationals to repatriate.

All those who are fit trained this week and Murphy confirmed that they are all available for selection.

It's likely that some, if not all, will feature tomorrow night.

This game offers Leinster the chance to heap further pressure on an Ulster side who were 14 points ahead of them at one stage. Leinster are currently in the top spot with a point to spare over their northern rivals who are level with Glasgow.

It's been an extraordinary sequence of results. At one stage in December Leinster coach Joe Schmidt dismissed any suggestion his side would be able to catch Ulster.

"This is a massive game for us and for them," said Leinster second-row Devin Toner.

"The gap between us was huge at one stage, but we have gained an advantage now and I am sure Ulster will be gunning for us on Saturday night.

"They will want to wrestle back top spot. It's up to us to stop them. I think we have the only 100pc home record in the competition and that is something we want to hold on to as well.

"It's always special for us playing at the RDS. This is a chance for us to make up for the mistakes we made in the game in Ravenhill too.

"We allowed them to bully us in the scrums in particular and it is something we have worked on a lot, this week in particular," Toner added.

Ulster are likely to include their available internationals when the teams are named at lunchtime today, although Luke Marshall has been excluded from the squad as he continues to recover from concussion, while tighthead prop John Afoa has been allowed to return to New Zealand to be with his wife Theresa for the birth of their third child.

They are also without Declan Fitzpatrick for the showdown because of injury, so will likely have to start 27-year-old Ricky Lutton in the pivotal position.

Meanwhile, Northampton have confirmed their interest in Wales star George North.

The 20-year-old wing is under contract at the Llanelli-based Scarlets, where he has another year of his existing deal remaining.

North, who was born in England but moved to north Wales at the age of two, is among European rugby's hottest properties.

He made his Test debut as an 18-year-old against South Africa in 2010, scoring two tries, and was an integral part of Wales' 2011 World Cup campaign, helping them reach the semi-finals.

North's career also includes two Six Nations title successes with Wales and a Grand Slam.

The Welsh game is currently engaged in a battle to keep its big names playing in the Principality.

Mike Phillips, James Hook and Luke Charteris are among those who ply their trade in the French club game, with centre Jamie Roberts and flanker Dan Lydiate set to join them next season by heading to Paris-based Racing Metro.

Irish Independent

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