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Schmidt turns to big guns for Twickenham showdown

Guinness PRO12 Editor

19 May 2012

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt revealed wild horses couldn’t have prevented thoroughbreds Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney from taking their places in the Heineken Cup final against RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Ulster.

Ireland captain O’Driscoll underwent minor knee surgery last week while full-back Kearney had a back problem but both start as two of five changes made by Schmidt.

Also coming into the side after the RaboDirect PRO12 play-off semi-final defeat of Glasgow Warriors are scrum-half Eoin Reddan, winger Fergus McFadden and flanker Kevin McLaughlin.

But while those close selection calls by Schmidt, he admits as soon as the medics gave O’Driscoll and Kearney the green light there was never any doubt in his mind.

“Brian trained fully on Thursday, he trained well, he is in good shape and he will play,” he said.

“Rob had a run today, he is feeling comfortable and we are confident he will be out there as well tomorrow. 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.

"We know Ulster are going to take a leaf out of the same book as Clermont and Glasgow and be very physical.

"It will be a case of having to freshen things up as we go."

Leinster are bidding to become only the second team since Leicester to defend their Heienken Cup title and the first to win it three times in four years.

O’Driscoll appeared in last year’s dramatic final in Cardiff when Leinster came from behind to beat Northampton and says he would not miss this occasion for the world.

"You'd want to have a limb falling off not to be able to play in the Heineken Cup final," said O'Driscoll.

"One thing about having a longish career is that you learn to deal with having knocks going into games."

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (capt), B Thorn, K McLaughlin; S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, H van der Merwe, N White, D Toner, S Jennings, I Boss, I Madigan, D Kearney.