Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen (Image: ©INPHO/Ben Brady)
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Leo Cullen has revealed that James Lowe will be out "for a number of weeks", which suggest the flying Kiwi could yet play a part in Ireland's Six Nations challenge.
Lowe is among a number of big names omitted by the Blues for their final Champions Cup pool game in Bath at lunchtime tomorrow, with Tadgh Furlong and James Ryan also missing.
While Lowe wasn't named in Andy Farrell's 37-man Ireland squad in midweek, Furlong – who came off early in last Sunday's record-breaking win over Montpellier – and Ryan, who was withdrawn after the captain's run last Saturday, were included for the upcoming championship.
"James (Lowe) came on at half time at the weekend against Montpellier, he trained on Tuesday and picked up a niggle on that day. It was very unfortunate, he has a strain so will be out for a few weeks," confirmed Cullen.
"James (Ryan) could have been touch-and-go but we were happy with how Ross (Molony) and Josh (Murphy) went last week, with Ryan Baird coming back as well and Rhys Ruddock had been sick and missed the early part of this week.
"Because the week was so short, Rhys could have covered second row at the weekend. The sensible decision was to not push anything this week.
"So James Ryan is OK, probably could have pushed him for this week but we made the decision early.
"Tadhg doesn't seem to be too bad, so hopefully he'll be up and running for round one of the Six Nations.
"Ireland will be going to camp next week and he should be good to go hopefully, barring any setbacks."
Leinster had 16 players selected for Six Nations duty but, as ever, there are those who will try to prove Farrell wrong with big performances this weekend.
In the case of Cullen's squad, Ciarán Frawley and Ross Molony will be among the aggrieved, along with Harry Byrne, though Byrne is not included in Leinster's squad this week.
Johnny Sexton returns as captain after coming off the bench for his return from injury last week, and he is backed up by Ross Byrne.
Molony starts in the second row while the return of Robbie Henshaw to partner Garry Ringrose means that Frawley is on the bench.
“It’s great for the guys selected," said Cullen of the Six Nations squad.
"It’s been a little frustrating for Harry, 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 a positive because they will get their chances during the Six Nations 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.”
Asked if he spoke to Harry Byrne, Molony and Frawley about their Test disappointment this week, Cullen replied: “I just touch base with them.
Leinster’s Ross Molony celebrates with tryscorer Ross Byrne
(Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie)
"I understand the disappointment – I’ve been on the receiving end of many of those calls myself down the years as well.
"But they’re all good at turning their attention back to playing well here. They have plenty of support here.”
Asked about a report linking Munster second row Jason Jenkins with a summer move to Leinster, Cullen replied: "We don’t normally comment on this speculation, but I can see how it would make sense for certain people’s minds, for sure.
"I know that Johann (van Graan) talks very, very highly of him.
"He is a big man. You see in some of the big games, South Africa winning the World Cup and that Lions series, the emphasis particularly around the scrum and maul…..we don’t bring a huge amount of guys in from outside as you would be well aware. Big Mike Ala’alatoa is our only foreign player.
"Mike is starting this weekend. He has had an unbelievable impact. Sometimes a bit of that experience from the outside is good for the group.
"Mike is also a very big man which is good. Him and his family have settled in well. He is a good member of the group. You can see the quality he brings.
"We will comment further if there is anything official to be announced."
Leinster: Keenan, Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, O'Brien, Sexton (captain), McGrath; Porter, Kelleher, Ala'alatoa, Molony, Murphy, Doris, van der Flier, Conan.
Replacements: Sheehan, Healy, Abdaladze, Baird, Deegan, Gibson-Park, R Byrne, Frawley.
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