Ireland's Six Nations chances have been given a massive boost after the revelation that talismanic captain Brian O'Driscoll is in line for an premature comeback from injury.
The midfield maestro had earlier this month ruled out a return before Ireland's tricky Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff on February 2.
However, having only returned to training 10 days ago, he has yet again demonstrated his renowned ability for speedy rehabilitation, this time from ankle ligament surgery, which he underwent two months ago.
And Leinster coach Joe Schmidt — the man who O'Driscoll claims is “the most respected” coach he has ever worked for — has revealed that the 33-year-old is on course to return for the Pro12 trip to Edinburgh on January 4.
This will be a huge boost for coach Declan Kidney in his bid to avert a fourth successive defeat against the Welsh as he is already resigned to being without Tommy Bowe, Stephen Ferris and Paul O'Connell.
Meanwhile Munster prop David Kilcoyne as revenge on his mind ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Ulster, even though he wasn’t in the squad that suffered Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat in April.
Kilcoyne had only started one game for Munster prior to this season, but has featured in 11 of their 15 games this campaign and also made his debut for Ireland.
“I'm looking forward to 2013 and hoping to push on, but the main thing, at this stage, is the Ulster game. A win there would be a nice way to wrap up the year,” he said.
“It was a tough game up there earlier in the season. It was one of our better performances of the year, it was right up there, but we came away a point short,” he said. “We will try to rectify that when they come down here. A win over them is vital at this stage. It won't be an easy task. We know exactly what we have to do.
“It would be good if we manage to be the first to defeat them in the league this season.”
Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion says there is no reason why his team can't complete a first ever double over Leinster in the Pro12 tomorrow.
The 20-year-old has been one of the discoveries of the season and played a key role in Connacht's |34-6 win over Leinster at the Sportsground in September.
Now he wants to end a sensational year on a high, having started it working part-time in the ticket office at the Sportsground, but is now ever-present in the Connacht side.
The Welsh native, who has been capped for Ireland at under-20 level for the past two seasons, has started all 15 games for Connacht this season and wants to end his breakthrough year by turning over the Heineken Cup champions in their own back yard.
“We have shown we can do it already, so it is now about backing it up,” he said.
“We need to go there in a positive mindset and pick ourselves up from the Munster loss.”
Marmion said that the bonus point win over Leinster was one of the highlights of the season so far, along with the Heineken Cup victory over Biarritz, but the focus now is on improving their league position.