Leinster's bid to become only the second team in the history of the Heineken Cup to win back-to-back tournaments has received two massive boosts with the timely return to training of captain Leo Cullen and Brian O'Driscoll.
While inspirational second row Cullen is unlikely to get a run until next week's head-to-head with arch-rivals Munster in a top-of-the-table PRO12 clash in Limerick, all the signs are that legendary Ireland and British & Irish Lions centre O'Driscoll could make a dramatic return to action this weekend against the Ospreys.
O'Driscoll has been given the all clear by the province's medical team and could feature in the Pro12 against the Ospreys on Friday night. If he comes through that game unscathed there is a chance he could line-up against his 2009 Lions centre partner, Jamie Roberts, when Leinster meet Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals on 7 April.
"Brian O'Driscoll is progressing well after stepping up his rehab in recent weeks and may be fit for selection this week. Club captain Leo Cullen is ahead of schedule and may also complete his comeback following Achilles surgery in late January," said a Leinster spokesman.
O'Driscoll has not played any rugby since undergoing surgery on a shoulder probelm at the end of last autumn's Rugby World Cup. His last match was the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales on 8 October and he has yet to play for Leinster this season.
While he is back in full contact training, Cullen has also rejoined training with the reigning Heineken Cup champions. He is expected to make his return following an Achilles operation the weekend before the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Cardiff Blues at the Aviva Stadium.
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt is also hopeful that Irish international tight head prop Mike Ross will be fully recovered from the nerve problem in his shoulder that forced him out of last weekend's defeat to England at Twickenham Stadium in time to face Munster next week.
"Mike will be assessed by the medical team and the province is hopeful that he will return for the away trip to Munster," added the spokesman.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.