Leinster optimistic Cronin will be fit for Champions Cup final

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Leinster remain optimistic that Sean Cronin will be passed fit for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final against Saracens in Newcastle.

The Ireland hooker has been in explosive form for the reigning continental champions this year, scoring six tries in his eight appearances to date, but he lasted just 34 minutes of the semi-final win against Toulouse late last month.

The Limerick man hasn’t played since that game against the Top 14 side and didn’t train all last week, but senior coach Stuart Lancaster gave a knowing smile when declaring his optimism over Cronin at Monday’s media session.

“Obviously it’s a calf injury. We’re planning on doing a session today and then tomorrow we’ve got a full training session.

“He might take part in that depending on how today goes. But we’re pretty optimistic that he’ll be right.

We’ll definitely give him until Thursday because he’s such an important player. Hes been outstanding.

“He won the award of the [Leinster] Players Player [of the year] so, yeah, he’s good for us.”

Rhys Ruddock, who was concussed against Ulster in the European quarter-final at the end of March, has come through the graduated return to play protocols and is also due to return to training in time for this European battle of titans.

Every man will count this weekend at the home of Newcastle United so the additional update on replacement tighthead Andrew Porter, who has recovered from a minor pectoral muscle injury, was just as welcome.

Josh van der Flier, whose season was thought to be over when suffering a groin injury with Ireland early in the Six Nations, is also due to return to training this week although Newcastle will be a week too soon for him.

Leinster optimistic Cronin will be fit for Champions Cup final

All told, the matchday 23 is taking a clear and obvious shape early in the week, all the more so given Jamison Gibson-Park is unavailable again due to a hamstring injury which nips in the bud Leinster’s by-now familiar Antipodean three-into-two conundrum.

That leaves James Lowe on course for a wing slot on the back of his sensational turn against Toulouse and Scott Fardy primed for a start in the second row.

Hugh O’Sullivan, the 21-year old academy prospect, will serve as back-up to Luke McGrath at scrum-half.

O’Sullivan has made 14 appearances this season but only two were starts and his pair of European appearances to date amount to just eight minutes combined against Wasps in January and Toulouse more recently.

“He’s trained right the way throughout the season and he’s played some big games,” said Lancaster of the youngster.

“He’s started and he came off the bench in the Toulouse game. He’s a confident young man and that’s what you need in a scrum-half.

“I’m delighted for him, the progress he has made this year. He’s got the full confidence of the squad.

“He’d be more apprehensive if he hadn’t done the work in training but he’s been in there right from the very start, so, he’s good to go.”

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