The Leinster squad trained in UCD on Monday afternoon ahead of Friday night’s trip to face Edinburgh in Murrayfield in the RaboDirect PRO12 (KO: 7.35pm) with a number of internationals expected to return to the fray.
Andrew Conway received a dead leg when competing for a ball in the air during Saturday night’s victory over Connacht. It is anticipated that he will be fit to train during the week and available for the trip to Edinburgh.
Richardt Strauss is expected to return to the fray over the coming weeks and Shane Jennings, who was a late withdrawal from Saturday’s line up due to illness, is expected to return.
Jennings could be joined by a number of other Ireland internationals – such as Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and Jonathan Sexton – who were unavailable last weekend. Kevin McLaughlin, meanwhile, was rested as a precaution after sustaining a shoulder knock against Ulster the previous weekend and is also expected to be in the mix.
There are no other fresh injury concerns for the province and the management are hopeful that Ireland trio Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll – who continue to make positive strides in their respective rehabilitation programmes – will come into the frame this week ahead of Thursday’s lunchtime team announcement.
Isa Nacewa is also set to return either this week or next after suffering deep tissue bruising to his arm in the recent Round 4 Heineken Cup clash against ASM Clermont Auvergne.
In a further boost, second row Mark Flanagan – who has been unavailable since undergoing a back operation in July – is set to be available for Clontarf in the AIL this weekend away to St. Mary’s College.
Speaking ahead of Friday night’s game, Leinster Coach JOE SCHMIDT said that he was pleased with his side’s efforts as they face into a big month for the province both in the PRO12 and Heineken Cup competitions.
"I was pleased with the effort from what was a relatively young and inexperienced group of players. We defended well playing into the strong breeze in the first half as Connacht put a lot of pressure on us. It was a great confidence boost to get seven points just before the interval and we put together some positive phases in the last quarter of the game to build a bit of a buffer on the scoreboard.
"Despite the cold wind, the crowd helped spur the players on as always and it was great to be back at the RDS with the really positive support we receive there.
"With other teams in the top half winning this weekend we didn’t lose any ground at least, so we’re still just outside the play off qualification spots. It means we’ve still got plenty of work to do but at least we’re close enough to be in the scramble for the semi-finals.
"We know from experience how difficult it is to win over in Edinburgh. A lot of our players have played under Michael (Bradley) at different levels for Connacht, the Wolfhounds or with the Ireland senior squad when he took interim charge a few years back – and all speak highly of him.
"Edinburgh will be keen to get back to winning ways after their narrow defeats to Glasgow over the Christmas period and they showed real character to come back and almost snatch the win last weekend after Glasgow got away to a flying start.
"Games between ourselves and Edinburgh are always tight affairs. We narrowly beat them earlier in the campaign in the RDS (22-16) and it was nip-and-tuck last season over in Murrayfield when we managed to come out on the right side of a contest that see-sawed right up until the finish (28-36).
"They have a big abrasive set of forwards and proven international performers throughout. With a player like Tim Visser in their ranks, who is racing clear at the top of the try-scoring charts again this year, we can’t afford any defensive lapses. Greig Laidlaw controls the game for them at either scrum-half or outside half and they have a number of very effective ball carriers led by the likes of Dave Denton and Netani Talei.
"With a short six-day turnaround, the focus in the early part of this week is about nursing knocks and reintegrating players back into the group as a number of players haven’t had much game time in recent weeks.
"It can be easy to allow your mind to drift because January is shaping up to be a big month for us in the context of the season across both competitions, but we’re very much focused on Edinburgh and what is sure to be another stiff test this weekend."