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RugbyU: O'Driscoll injury fear clouds Leinster Euro dream

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Leinster believe star centre Brian O'Driscoll will be fit for Friday's European Challenge Cup final against Stade Francais as the Irish giants seek a fourth continental title since 2009.

The Ireland legend, set for a fourth Lions tour this summer, had to have an epidural earlier this week to ease the pain from a back spasm he suffered in last weekend's narrow victory over Glasgow in the Celtic League semi-finals.

Leinster manager Guy Easterby expressed confidence he would be available, but O'Driscoll had not trained as of Wednesday, and skipped a Lions get together in London on Monday.

"Wednesday was a down day, so he won't be on the pitch until Thursday, but he's had issues with his back before, and invariably it has come right," Easterby said. "We won't know for definite until after training, but we're hopeful he will be available."

It would be O'Driscoll's -- and Leinster's first Challenge Cup Final, and could well be his last, too.

The 34-year-old's future with Leinster has not been decided beyond the end of this season, and he could join Isa Nacewa, France-bound Jonny Sexton and new Ireland coach Joe Schmidt in seeking to go out on a high over the next two weeks.

"We're looking for a successful end to the season, it would be great for Jonny, for Isa and for Joe to go on with at least one trophy," Easterby added. "It will be fantastic if we can get a result not just for the squad, but to let them leave on a happy note."

Leinster, playing in the "wrong competition" according to one of Stade's players, are bidding to become the fourth club to win both the European Cup and Challenge Cup, and are odds-on favourites.

"We (Stade) will need to play the perfect game because Leinster are one of the very best teams in European competition with some magnificent players," said former Leinster star Felipe Contepomi.

But Stade have won three of the previous four meetings between the two sides, and come into the final off two victories on the road in the knockout stages, aware that victory is their only route into next season's elite European Cup.

Hunger counts for much, and utility back Paul Warwick, a former Munster player, says Stade aren't short of inspiration.

"Friday is a way for us to put another disappointing Top 14 season behind us and still qualify for the European Cup," said the Australian, who's joining England's Worcester Warriors in the summer.

"The club have invested a lot of money in a new stadium that could be the resurrection of Stade Francais.

"There's a lot of emphasis on the last European Cup chance and there are a lot of coaches and players leaving so it should make for a pretty special occasion."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130515/rugbyu-odriscoll-injury-fear-clouds-leinster-euro-dream