Rabo Pro 12 final, RDS Dublin, Leinster rugy, Ulster rugby, Brian O’Driscoll, Seán Obrien, Warren Gatland
This afternoon the Lions supplied clear information about Seán O’Brien’s bruised knee – after a bone on bone collision in last Friday’s Challenge Cup final – with head coach Warren Gatland ruling him out of all rugby until the second or third match on tour.
That means O’Brien will not feature in Saturday’s Rabo Pro 12 final, despite an official Leinster statement refusing to rule him out.
There appears to have been a communication breakdown but Gatland’s professionalism with the media was a welcome change, stating O’Brien’s domestic season is over. In fact, he has already joined the Lions camp and is being treated by the medical team, which includes Ireland’s Eanna Falvey.
“He has come in and been looked at by the medics,” said Gatland. “Hopefully he’s going to spend this week with us. It’s a bit of bone bruising by all accounts. That’s only a couple of weeks maybe. We are just hoping it’s no longer than that.
“With bone bruising it’s a little bit unpredictable. But he’s come in and they have said it was a little bit more positive than they had first thought which was good.”
The other Lions injury concern is Brian O’Driscoll but Gatland expects him to play against Ulster.
“Obviously Brian O’Driscoll is hoping to be fit to play this week. He is on his feet again and hoping to play this weekend. We’ve been quite lucky at the moment. Fingers crossed for the two finals this week, so the guys can turn up on Sunday and fly out on Monday.”
The first ever gathering of the Lions on Irish soil, fittingly at Carton House - a demesne awarded to Maurice FitzGerald for helping the Normans capture Dublin in 1170 (the invaders also, allegedly, used the power of four slogan to help unite their conquered tribes) - was going swimmingly today until the first question.
It was about the European player of the year. Again.
Gatland duly confirmed he will not be making contact with Jonny Wilkinson, or any other outhalf for that matter, unless Jonny Sexton, Owen Farrell or Stuart Hogg are ruled out by injury.
“No. I think we’ve been through the conversation. I don’t think anything has changed from the conversation we had last time. If we pick up an injury on tour, then maybe there’s a conversation to have.
“If we had taken 38 rather than 37, it wouldn’t have been another 10, it would have been another loose forward.”
Hogg, the 20-year-old Scottish fullback, revealed he was an outhalf until turning professional. Actually, he only switched to centre two years ago to play alongside an outhalf he admired, subsequently moved to 15 when signed by Glasgow, where he shined during the Six Nations.
Hogg has also been place-kicking of late for Glasgow and alongside Farrell and Leigh Halfpenny in Cardiff last week.
Both Farrell and Hogg are expected to get a run at 10 against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1st, with Sexton rested due to his involvement in Leinster’s final against Ulster on Saturday at the RDS.
But with Quade Cooper not selected by Australia coach Robbie Deans and Gatland unable to get Wilkinson to tour because of his commitments to Toulon, the outhalf issue looks set to run and run, in both hemispheres, until the distraction of actual rugby takes over.
Then again, it will be a live issue once again should Toulouse beat Toulon in this weekend’s Top 14 semi-final as that would immediately free up Wilkinson and the already selected Gethin Jenkins.
But Gatland added: “How do I say no a different way? From what I have seen, there are going to be six (Australian) players added, so I guess they are just assessing his form and I presume (Cooper) is going to be added later on.”
Fergus McFadden (neck) remains the other major injury worry for Leinster after he was withdrawn against Stade Francais last weekend.
The shoulder injury that saw Richardt Strauss replaced by Seán Cronin late on against the French is not expected to keep him out of the final, however, while Kevin McLaughlin, who was rested for the Stade game, could “come back into the frame”.
After a five-week absence following the concussion he suffered against Munster, Dave Kearney may also be in the reckoning when the team is revealed on Friday afternoon.