There were a few notable omissions when Leinster announced their matchday 23 for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup clash with Benetton at the RDS (KO 3.15 pm).
Ireland internationals Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong and Rob Kearney have all been left out for the visit of Kieran Crowley’s side.
Henshaw’s absence is not that surprising considering the powerful centre suffered from some illness last weekend which ruled him out of the PRO14 victory over Connacht at the Sportsground.
However, it was expected that Furlong was to come back into the team but Cullen confirmed today that the Wexford man is suffering from a back problem.
“In terms of Tadhg, he’s just had a slight issue with his back since he’s come back from Japan,” Cullen said on Friday afternoon.
“So it’s nothing major now but again I thought Ports [Andrew Porter] did very well last week coming back in. Benty [Michael Bent] has been brilliant for us during that whole first block, so we have a lot of confidence in those guys as well, so, again, Tadhg is not a million miles away but we’re in a good position where we’re able to give him that extra bit of time.
“In terms of a case by case basis for guys, he’s probably in the bracket where we’re just being a little bit patient in terms of his return.”
Another surprise was that Kearney was left out of the matchday 23, especially considering the experienced fullback saw some game time from the bench in the bonus-point win in Galway.
Cullen didn’t confirm an injury for Kearney, so it seems that it’s down to form but the head coach was keen to outline that last season, he swapped between the Louth man and Jordan Larmour regularly.
“So Rob came off the bench last week. With him and Jordan, we would have chopped and changed a little bit last year as well, so, we look at sometimes the challenge that we’re playing against, the team that we’re playing against – Jordan gets the nod this week. Rob is not a million miles away.”