Rob Kearney ready for Leinster comeback while Lowe remains in NZ

Leinster’s marquee signing won’t be available for the early rounds of their Champions Cup campaign as he will finish out the season with Tasman.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

ROB KEARNEY IS set for his first Leinster appearance since January this week as the province continue their pre-season schedule against Gloucester on Friday (Templeville Road 19.30).

The veteran fullback last featured in provincial colours against Castres in the Champions Cup pool stage before suffering a bicep injury in Ireland’s Six Nations win over Italy. Surgery on that, as well as his knee, ensured he was unable to play a part in Leinster’s run to the Pro12 and Champions Cup semi-final.

“There’s a good chance he’ll be available this weekend,” said Leo Cullen as he and his coaching ticket were introduced for a new season in the St Mary’s clubhouse last night.

The head coach made equally positive noises about the progress of Dave Kearney, who is expected to train today with a view of playing in the Friday night fixture. Jamie Heaslip might not return as soon as the outside backs, but with the season less than three weeks away, Cullen says the number eight is steadily “making his way back. He’s not a million miles away.”

James Lowe beats the tackle by Jannes Kirsten Source: Photosport/Bruce Lim/INPHO

One man who is literally thousands of miles away is new signing James Lowe. The Kiwi has played his final match for the Chiefs, who lost out to the Crusaders in the Super Rugby semi-final, but will remain in New Zealand to play with Tasman in the Mitre 10 Cup.

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That commitment will keep the wing in New Zealand until at least 14 October – the same weekend Leinster begin their Champions Cup campaign – when his regular season concludes against Counties Manukau, with semi-finals and finals to come on the following weekends leading right up to November.

November is also the month Garry Ringrose could make his return after shoulder surgery, though in a “best case scenario” Cullen hopes he can come back in October. Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton are still on track to be fit for the opening European jousts.

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Sean Farrell

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