O’ Driscoll fit and ready for Cup Final

Updated: May 19, 2012

Brian O’Driscoll handed Leinster a major boost after declaring himself fit for the all-Irish European Cup final against Ulster at Twickenham on Saturday.

O’Driscoll’s place in the final was in doubt after he underwent minor surgery to have cartilage removed from his knee last week, having missed his side’s Pro12 semi-final victory over Glasgow on Saturday.

But the 33-year-old Ireland star has recovered in time to start in European club rugby’s showpiece occasion.

“You’d want to have a limb falling off not to be able to play in the European Cup final,” O’Driscoll said. “One thing about having a long-ish career is that you learn to deal with having knocks going into games.”

There was a further injury boost for Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt as Rob Kearney was named in the starting line-up after passing a fitness test on a back problem.

Eoin Reddan’s return in place of Isaac Boss is one of three changes to the Leinster team from their semi-final win over Clermont-Auvergne. Fergus McFadden and Kevin McLaughlin replace Shane Jennings and Luke Fitzgerald at wing and flanker.

Leinster, European champions in 2009 and 2011, will become the first side to win the trophy three times in four years if they beat Ulster.

“Brian trained fully yesterday, he trained well, he is in good shape and he will play tomorrow,” confirmed Schmidt.

“Rob had a run today, he is feeling comfortable and we are confident he will be out there as well. I would say those two guys are pretty much 100%.

“There is no medical reason why they wouldn’t be playing – and it’s pretty hard for me to stop them if that’s the case.”

Ulster’s hopes of stopping Leinster were improved by the return to their starting XV of forwards John Afoa and Chris Henry. Prop Afoa served a four-match ban for his quarter-final tackle on Munster’s Felix Jones, while back row Henry has been out of action for several weeks due to an ankle injury.

Henry missed the semi-final win over Edinburgh and last weekend’s final Pro12 match away to Munster, but showed no signs of discomfort during training this week.

Teams for the European Cup final between Leinster and Ulster at Twickenham on Saturday (kick-off 1600 GMT):

Leinster: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa, Johnny Sexton, Eoin Reddan, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Kevin McLaughlin, Brad Thorn, Leo Cullen (capt), Mike Ross, Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Heinke Van der Merwe, Nathan White, Devin Toner, Shane Jennings, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney

Ulster: Stefan Terblanche, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Stephen Ferris, Dan Tuohy, Johann Muller (capt), John Afoa, Rory Best, Tom Court

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Adam D’Arcy