Leinster gearing for big return against Scarlets
Lions trio Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald could be playing again as early as next week.
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt hopes to have his star centre, fullback and wing back in action against Edinburgh on January 4.
Triple Lions tourist O'Driscoll hasn't featured since October, after he sustained ankle ligament damage in a league game against Cardiff Blues.
The 33-year-old was expected to return later next month, but now seems ready to press his claims for a fourth successive Lions tour ahead of schedule.
Kearney remains one of the favourites for the Lions starting fullback berth in Australia, having played in all three Tests against the Springboks in 2009, but he has spent all but 32 minutes of the season on the sidelines.
The 26-year-old injured his back in the Pro12 defeat to Connacht on September 28 and, like O'Driscoll, missed each of Ireland's three games in November.
Fitzgerald, who also won Test honours for the Lions three years ago, has been out for even longer, with a neck problem meaning he hasn't played at all this term.
"We'd be pretty confident about Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald getting back for Edinburgh," Schmidt told RTE.
"And there're a couple of other guys – Richardt Strauss should be back, Isa Nacewa should be back.
"So, that will hopefully give us a run into the Scarlets [Heineken Cup] game."