Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip an injury doubt for visit of Castres

LEINSTER REMAIN UNCERTAIN over the fitness of captain Jamie Heaslip ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup clash with Castres at the RDS.

The number eight injured his right shoulder in the Pro12 win over Ulster two weekends ago, being replaced after just 27 minutes of the tie. Leinster’s initial expectation was that Heaslip would be fit in time to play the French side.

However, the Ireland international has yet to take contact on the shoulder, with Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen reporting that Heaslip was rated “50/50″ to start against Castres.

“I wouldn’t say he’s perfectly recovered,” said Cullen in UCD this afternoon.

“He’s working away, he was in the gym last week just making sure he’s able to get back pressing and working away with his rehab. He’ll be out on the pitch for the first time today, so we can assess him then, see what it feels like running around.

Cullen underlined that the province hope one of their “key players” will indeed be available, but the form of 22-year-old Jack Conan is of great comfort.

The Old Belvedere clubman has been a leading ball carrier for Matt O’Connor’s side recently, and should it be deemed unwise to send Heaslip back into action against Castres, Conan would provide excellent cover at number eight.

Meanwhile, the latest update on Cian Healy’s fitness was somewhat vague, with the Ireland prop’s hamstring injury continuing to be managed. The 27-year-old has been carrying out fitness work at Leinster training sessions in recent weeks alongside Sean O’Brien, but putting a date on his return is proving difficult.

Healy is hopeful of being involved in contact training for the first time this week, as well as resuming live scrummaging.

Healy and O’Brien remain on the comeback trail. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The intimation all along has been that Healy would take no part in this month’s European clashes with Castres and Wasps, although Cullen said such a verdict was not confirmed, even if he did admit Healy’s involvement this week was a “long shot.”

“I wouldn’t say confirmed, but with those long-term guys, they’re just constantly managed,” said Cullen. “Cian and Seanie in particularly, you kind of bucket the two of them together. Cian is maybe a little bit ahead of Seanie, week to week.

“He’s getting assessed, gets his hamstrings tested in terms of what the strength differential is, and he’ll run today. With the nature of those long-term injuries, you have really good weeks when you feel great and think you can push on again the following week.

Shane Jennings is in the selection mix for this weekend’s clash in Dublin, having missed Saturday’s bonus-point win over Cardiff as Leinster felt it was prudent not to risk the flanker.

Jennings pulled out of the win over Ulster after a hamstring issue during the warm-up for that game.

Finally, Cullen indicated that Leinster had suffered no fresh injuries in Cardiff over the weekend apart from the usual “scrapes and bangs” that go along with playing on the synthetic pitch at Arms Park.

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