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Heaslip ready to return to full Leinster training after 'small setback'

A groin issue for Dave Kearney makes the wing a doubt for Leinster’s Pro14 opener away to the Dragons.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

LEINSTER OPEN THEIR Pro14 campaign away to Bernard Jackman’s Dragons on Saturday, and while their first injury update of the season stretches to 13 names, there are at least signs that Jamie Heaslip will soon be able to scrub himself off that board.

Heaslip underwent surgery on a back injury last season after pulling out of Ireland’s Six Nations clash with England at the last minute.

The experienced number eight missed out on Leinster’s Champions Cup and Pro12 semi-finals along with the chance to tour with the Lions for a third time or captain Ireland in the USA and Japan.

After a ‘small setback’ the province hope to see him take a full part in training in UCD this week, though a competitive return to action is not likely to come until after Leinster’s long-haul trip to South Africa next month.

“We’ll see with the demands of the training week how he goes,” head coach Leo Cullen said today.

Leo Cullen Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“He had a small setback with his back and that’s why he’s a bit longer than we thought. Originally we thought he probably would have played one of the pre-season games. He had a small setback, but he’ll be back fully training this week. We’ll see how we goes.”

Heaslip is one of seven regular internationals on the injury list entering the opening week of the campaign. Though Lions tourists Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and Sean O’Brien would not have completed their pre-season programme by this stage even if they were injury free. Garry Ringrose meanwhile, is still penciled for a November return and Dave Kearney is a doubt for the first round of fixtures after complaining of a tight groin against Bath on Friday.

Dave Kearney scores a try despite the efforts of and Darren Atkins Dave Kearney's groin issue wiill be assessed this week in the build-up to Leinster's trip to face the Dragons. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We’re a little bit cursed in the centre at the moment,” says Cullen, who paired Jimmy and Conor O’Brien in midfield from the start against Bath.

The two from the 2016 crop of Ireland U20s look certain to see some action in the early weeks of the season as the depth chart under Henshaw and Ringrose is tested further by injuries for Noel Reid (fractured hand) and Tom Daly who has been ruled out for the first half of the season after undergoing surgery on his ACL last week.

The versatility of Isa Nacewa, Rory O’Loughlin and Fergus McFadden will also come in handy for Cullen in a block of fixtures where experienced heads will be at a premium.

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Sean Farrell

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