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Leinster coach O'Connor facing big selection calls as he looks to sting Wasps

The Australian head coach has a range of combinations to select from in midfield.

Gopperth or Madigan at 10 for Leinster?
Gopperth or Madigan at 10 for Leinster?
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MADIGAN OR GOPPERTH?

McCarthy or Douglas? Reddan or Boss? Reid or Madigan? Ryan at openside?

Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor and his coaching staff face a number of important selection decisions ahead of Sunday’s Champions Cup clash with Wasps, with the Australian giving little away at the province’s UCD HQ this afternoon.

“All the selections are tough,” said O’Connor. “It’s always about what 15 blokes give us the best chance of breaking down the opposition. From that end, there’s always a lot of thought that goes into it.

There’s been a lot of debate about who’s best for us and everyone’s got their own opinion. It’s about what’s best for the team and what is going to give us the best chance to break down Wasps.”

In terms of who is most suited to taking on the English side, it seems that openside Shane Jennings would be called upon if he proves surprisingly fit to return from the hamstring injury he sustained last month, although Dominic Ryan is likely to secure the seven jersey.

The make-up of Leinster’s midfield looks like being equally important, with O’Connor having a range of combinations to choose from. It would appear that Gordon D’Arcy may be given the nod at 13, while Ian Madigan and Jimmy Gopperth vie for the 10 shirt.

LeinsterÕs Dominic Ryan Dominic Ryan has been filling in at openside flanker with Shane Jennings missing.

If Gopperth is selected again, as seems probable, does Madigan return to 12, or will Noel Reid feature in the starting team in Europe for the first time?

O’Connor was asked this afternoon if new signing Ben Te’o, who has just joined from rugby league, could feature this weekend, although it would be a shock if the former Rabbitoh was given his debut in so important a European fixture.

Can he play, Matt?

“He can.”

Will he be involved?

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“I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

The powerful centre has at least made a strong impression in his first week with Leinster, and O’Connor indicated that he has no major worries over the fact that Te’o is coming off the back of a full NRL season.

He’s a little bit overloaded, a little bit jet-lagged, but he’s certainly enjoying it. He’s mixing very well and the professionalism that he’s bringing to the group will be much needed.

“He’s had various spells out throughout the season, for various reasons [smiles], but he’s presenting very fresh. I think that the new challenge certainly adds a freshness mentally that he’s very excited about, so from that end, I think we’ll get a little bit of a revamp.

Ben Te'o Te'o has settled in well in his first week with Leinster. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“We’ll have a window in November and January, then March, where we can freshen him up and give him a bit of time away from us and the game. I think we should see some positive things from him.”

What of Luke Fitzgerald, the left wing who was so superb for Leinster in last season’s Heineken Cup pool stages, and who was back in training this week? As ever, the update was frustratingly vague.

He trained this week, he did very well, so you’ll see him in the next couple of weeks.”

Meanwhile, Dave Kearney’s recovery from a long-term knee injury continues, with O’Connor hopeful that the wing will make an appearance for Leinster ‘A’ in the British and Irish Cup clash with Carmarthen ‘Quins in two weekends’ time.

“Dave’s still recovering from that ACL injury and he’s probably got another couple of weeks to go before we see Dave. We’d like to get him involved, all things being equal, in the B & I campaign, potentially next weekend.

“If he hits his markers and targets, we’ll have him out there for that.”

What team would you like to see Matt O’Connor pick this weekend?

This article was updated at 21.35 to reflect that fact that Leinster stated earlier this week that Shane Jennings is unlikely to be involved this weekend against Wasps.

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