Leinster in good shape despite the loss of star O’Driscoll
While Declan Kidney and Ireland have the luxury of a few months to ponder life without Brian O'Driscoll for at least the Six Nations campaign, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt's problem is much more immediate.
Saturday sees the European champions head to Montpellier in their Heineken Cup opener to face last season's beaten Top 14 finalists. And yesterday's confirmation that O'Driscoll could be out for “up to six months” with a trapped nerve in his shoulder that requires surgery means Leinster will have to be involved in the business end of the Pro 12 or European Cup if O'Driscoll is to play for Leinster this season.
“(The operation) has been pending for a while but we have pursued the best advice and we've checked up on more advice to try and make sure that what is going to be done is the best and most beneficial course of action,” said Schmidt.
“Brian is going to have some surgery and in the meantime we'll try and keep ticking over and hopefully he'll have something to come back to in the end.”
Even in the absence of O'Driscoll and the versatile and experienced Shane Horgan, who is looking at four months out after an operation on his knee, Leinster have options in midfield.
Gordon D'Arcy (below) continued fitness takes on a heightened significance and he partnered Fergus McFadden in last Friday night's win over Munster as Leinster named a strong side ahead of their Heineken Cup opener.
However, Eoin O'Malley deputised for the Ireland captain in the pool stages of this competition last year and won many admirers for his performance away to Clermont when he and D'Arcy did enough against the significantly bigger pair of Aurelien Rougerie and Gonzalo Canale to secure a crucial losing bonus point.
Schmidt also agreed yesterday that shifting Luke Fitzgerald to centre, where he lined out for Leinster immediately after his shock omission from the World Cup squad, is also a live option with Dave Kearney or Fionn Carr coming in on the wing.
“We will try (those combinations) out over the next few days at training and we'll see just who's up and on form. Hopefully we'll get that decision right.”