Leo Cullen has delivered a reassuring update on the fitness of Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan after both Ireland stars were left out of Leinster’s matchday squad to face Bath in the Heineken Champions Cup in Bath on Saturday.
Furlong lasted just six minutes of last week’s 89-7 defeat of Montpellier at the RDS after picking up a calf injury. Ryan didn’t even make the kick-off after being scratched from the side late on because of what was described as a minor hamstring problem.
"The sensible decision was to not push anything this week so (James Ryan) is okay. Probably could have pushed him for this week but we made the decision early,” said Cullen ahead of their final Pool A fixture.
“Tadhg doesn't seem to be too bad, so hopefully he'll be up and running for Round 1 of the Six Nations. Ireland will be going to camp next week, and he should be good to go hopefully, barring any setbacks.”
James Lowe, who missed out on the Six Nations squad named by Andy Farrell on Wednesday due to a muscle injury, suffered the issue in Leinster training the day before while Rhys Ruddock sits out this time having been sick earlier in the week.
Leinster can at least welcome back Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw into the lineup for a trip to The Rec as they aim to solidify their place in the top four pool placings and, with it, home advantage for the round of 16.
Sexton saw action for the first time since November when he came off the bench with half-an-hour to play last weekend while Henshaw missed the 13-try defeat of the Top 14 side. So did Ryan Baird who is named on the bench here.
Ryan’s absence and Baird’s slot in the reserves see the versatile Josh Murphy start in the second row for the second week in a row and his partner will once again be Ross Molony whose impressive form failed to earn him a national call-up.
Other changes of note from last week include the introduction of Luke McGrath at scrum-half for Jamison Gibson-Park and Michael Ala’alatoa’s elevation in the absence of Furlong while Henshaw’s return sees Ciaran Frawley switch to the bench.
Like Frawley, Ross Byrne is named among the replacements but the younger Byrne, Harry, isn’t. All three will have been disappointed at missing out on Farrell’s latest Six Nations squad and will no doubt eager to make a point or two in the coming weeks.
“It’s been a little frustrating for Harry,” said Cullen. “He’s just come back into training so he has missed a good chunk of this period. Not just games given everyone has missed games in this period, but from a training point of view as well.
“I hope those guys just turn their attention to games we have during the Six Nations now because it’s a great window of games for guys to play. They just have to turn that into positive because they will get their chances to play.
“As you know, there are plenty of twists and turns in terms of the injury profile of the different squads so for guys who are playing they just need to make sure that they are in the best possible shape for if and when an opportunity comes.
“There was a classic example for us there last week with Josh Murphy stepping in the day of the game. He comes in and starts and puts in a great performance and now he is back in the team again this week. The players just have to be ready for that next opportunity.”
H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J O’Brien; J Sexton, L McGrath; A Porter, R Kelleher, M Ala’alatoa; R Molony, J Murphy; C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan.
D Sheehan, C Healy, V Abdaladze, R Baird, M Deegan, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, C Frawley.
R McConnochie; G Hamer-Webb, M Clark, C Redpath, T Prydie; O Bailey, B Spencer; A Cordwell, J Du Toit, W Stuart; W Spencer, C Ewels; T Ellis, S Underhill, J Bayliss.
T Doughty, W Vaughan, J Jonker, J McNally, M Williams, J Simpson, M Ojomoh, W Butt.