Schmidt prays for injury-free night as big guns return
JOE SCHMIDT will be praying for the continued health of his marquee players, especially Sean O'Brien who starts just his second game of the season tonight when Leinster host Zebre.
O'Brien played the full 80 minutes of last weekend's 6-0 win over Glasgow and with next week's trip to Clermont in the Heineken Cup looming large, his fitness – and that of his international colleagues – is of paramount importance.
Schmidt has pressed the majority of his returning internationals into service tonight, naming a strong team that includes Jonny Sexton, Gordon D'Arcy and Michael Bent, who makes his first appearance for the province.
Meanwhile, Brian O'Driscoll will accompany Declan Kidney on Monday when the Ireland captain and coach travel to London for the World Cup pool draw, which is scheduled to begin at 3.0.
Ireland will be included in the second tier of seeds and could yet be joined by Wales, whose game against Australia this afternoon is the only remaining fixture that can affect seedings. A win could lift Wales as high as fifth, but defeat would see them fall below Samoa and Argentina to occupy a place in the third tier for the Pool draw.