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Sean O'Brien and JVDF expected back before Leinster open European defence

Dan Leavy is also due back in time for the Champions Cup after a bruising campaign in which he won everything on offer.

O'Brien last played during Leinster's home loss to Benetton.
O'Brien last played during Leinster's home loss to Benetton.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen is planning to have openside options in spades before the opening rounds of the Champions Cup in October.

Sean O’Brien, who underwent shoulder surgery in April to cap an injury-plagued season, has been pencilled in for a return to action in or around round four (v Edinburgh) or five (v Connacht) of the Pro14.

Dan Leavy, who missed Ireland’s third Test against Australia with a sternum issue, and Josh van der Flier, recovering from the ACL he ruptured in the Six Nations win in Paris, are also on course to be back available for Cullen in a similar time-frame.

“Seanie is making good progress. He won’t start the season but he’ll be back in the first few rounds I hope,” said Cullen after presenting his coaching ticket in Old Wesley last night.

“Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy are in a similar enough scenario. They’ll all return in, say, a three-week window… we have six Pro14 games (before Europe), the likelihood is those three guys will feature at some stage during those six games. When exactly will depend on how they progress over the next few weeks, but they’re all on track to be back prior to Europe, exactly the order of games I’m not sure.”

Outside of the back row, Fergus McFadden is nearing a comeback after a slower-than-expected recovery from the leg injury he picked up while scoring a try in the Champions Cup semi-final win over Scarlets. The veteran wing won’t face Newcastle in Donnybrook this Friday evening but should train in full this week with a view to being fit for Pro14 opening night away in Cardiff.

Leo Cullen Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After Noel Reid started at out-half in Montauban last week, Ciaran Frawley is in line to play a role at home to the Falcons on Friday. Joey Carbery’s departure to Munster has given the Skerries man an unexpected boost up the squad’s pecking order, though Harry Byrne will also be keen to grab minutes in the 10 role while his brother takes the delayed path into the new season with the rest of Ireland’s summer squad.

Though it must be frustrating to lose a player who had played an important role in a successful season, enough time seems to have passed for Cullen to take a philosophical stance on Carbery’s defection to the southern province.

“Ah, players come and go and we’re just trying to work on the environment here, all the coaching group that we have, and we hope that players want to stay here.

There’s always different pressures that come on that and I think it’s unfair for me to comment specifically on Joey because he’s just one of a number of players that have come through the Leinster system and are now playing with other provinces.

“So I think it’s unfair for me to talk about him because there’s all sorts of different pressures that go on, things that go on behind the scenes, so he’s just one of a number of players that have come through the Leinster system that are now playing at other provinces.

“Like Tadhg Beirne has gone to Munster as well. You wish Tadhg well, you just hope they don’t come back and actually cause a lot of pain on a big day, as he did the previous year in the semi-final when Scarlets beat us in the RDS and Tadhg was a big contributor there.”

Cullen adds: “For us, it’s about what we can focus on now to make sure all of our players want to stay at Leinster.”

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Sean Farrell

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