Kearney's fitness boosts Leinster


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The Independent Online

Sean O'Brien, the 2011 European player of the year who was man of the match in last week's Heineken Cup final, will be absent when Leinster take on the Ospreys in the RaboDirect Pro12 final in Dublin this afternoon. The flanker has a knee injury. Unfortunately for the Ospreys, the 2012 European player of the year, Rob Kearney has been passed fit and will be at full-back for a Leinster team showing some changes but no glaring weakness. Brian O'Driscoll has also passed a fitness test and starts in the centre; Joe Schmidt, the head coach, is able to drop an All Black World Cup winning lock, Brad Thorn, to the bench.

The Ospreys' head coach, Steve Tandy, said: "Leinster are a great team. What they have achieved in Europe over the last four years" – Heineken Cup wins in 2009, 2011 and 2012 – "speaks for itself, and the nature of their win against Ulster last weekend means that they will be full of confidence.

"Playing at home in front of their own fans will make the task even more difficult for us. But previous games won't count for a thing on Sunday. It is all about the day and who handles pressure the best."

Leinster finished the regular season 10 points clear of the Ospreys and beat Glasgow in the semi-finals. The Welsh region beat Munster 45-10.

"We know we have to improve in certain areas," Tandy said. "We were guilty of putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure in the semi-final, and that meant we had to rely too heavily on our defence. We don't want to have to do that [against Leinster]. We want to be composed and look to dictate territory better. We have to be clinical."

The wing Shane Williams, Wales's leading try-scorer, will play his last match for the Ospreys before his retirement this summer.

Leinster R Kearney; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, S Cronin, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, K McLaughlin, J Heaslip, S Jennings. Replacements R Strauss, C Healy or J McGrath, N White, B Thorn, D Ryan, J Cooney, I Madigan, D Kearney.

Ospreys R Fussell; H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, S Williams; D Biggar, R Webb; P James, R Hibbard, A Jones, AW Jones (capt), I Evans, R Jones, J Bearman, J Tipuric. Replacements S Baldwin, R Bevington, A Jarvis, J King, T Smith, K Fotuali'i, M Morgan, T Isaacs.

Referee R Poite (France)