Leinster ‘optimistic’ Cronin will be fit for Saturday’s Champions Cup final

LEINSTER ARE ‘OPTIMISTIC’ of having Seán Cronin fit and available to start Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final against Saracens, as the hooker bids to shake off a calf injury.

Cronin sustained the injury during the first half of the province’s semi-final win over Toulouse last month, but is due to return to training today ahead of this weekend’s European showdown [KO 5pm, Virgin Media/Channel 4/BT Sport]. 

Cronin is recovering from a calf injury. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

It was initially feared the Ireland international would miss the St James’ Park final as Leo Cullen’s side bid to win a historic fifth Champions Cup title, but his availability would be a major fillip for the defending champions.

Cronin, one of five players in the running for the EPCR Player of the Year award and the competition’s joint-leading try-scorer this term, will be back on the training paddock at UCD this afternoon, before a final decision on his fitness will be made closer to Friday’s team announcement.

“Hopefully he’s going to do units today with a view to training tomorrow and Thursday, so we’re optimistic,” Stuart Lancaster said of Cronin this afternoon. 

“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 for Saturday.

“We’ll definitely give him until Thursday because he’s such an important player. He’s been outstanding. He won the award of the players’ player of the year so yeah he’s good for us.”

Leinster are also expected to have Rhys Ruddock available for selection again after the flanker has come through the graduated return to play protocols having missed the semi-final against Toulouse.

Ruddock was pulled from the starting XV on the morning of the last four tie after feeling unwell during the captain’s run, but will be back on the training paddock on Monday afternoon. 

Ruddock is back in contention for Saturday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

There was also positive news on Andrew Porter [pectoral muscle injury] and Jamison Gibson-Park [hamstring] as they make progress in their comebacks, but both will have to be assessed by the medical staff as the week progresses.  

Gibson-Park won’t train until Thursday at the earliest and Lancaster admitted it is unlikely the Kiwi scrum-half will be right in time for Newcastle, with academy nine Hugh O’Sullivan set to be Luke McGrath’s understudy on the bench.

It means Cullen and Lancaster are spared the overseas player selection dilemma, with James Lowe and Scott Fardy set to occupy the two ‘non-European’ berths in Leinster’s matchday 23. 

Barry Daly, meanwhile, will miss Leinster’s run-in after injuring his collarbone in the final game of the Pro14 regular-season against Ulster a fortnight ago. 

Mick Kearney [shoulder], Dan Leavy [knee] and Adam Byrne [quad] are all long-term absentees. 

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