Nacewa and O'Brien doubtful as Montpellier wait on Cruden
Leinster need Isa Nacewa and Sean O'Brien more now than they have ever done in the past as Montpellier come to Dublin town in The Champions Cup on Saturday (KO 1.0).
The club captain's former post as a Mental Skills coach to Super Rugby's Auckland Blues will have to come to the fore.
He was back running last week following a calf injury that looked like scuppering the first round of The Champions Cup.
British & Irish Lions flanker O'Brien had to sit out the Leinster-Munster derby from a slow healing reaction to a stamp to his calf against Edinburgh in the PRO14 League last Friday week.
The decision was made that Montpellier in Europe meant more to Leinster's season than Munster at The Aviva Stadium.
The embarrassment of homegrown riches in the back row department allowed Cullen leeway to do without O'Brien, factoring in the importance of Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy.
Apparently, Robbie Henshaw came through the Munster match with no adverse reaction from his first match of the season. Certainly, the rustiness of his handling was compensated for by the venom shown in contact.
Man of the Match candidate Josh van der Flier's cut to his right cheek will not prevent the flanker from going back-to-back. The impact of the athletic James Ryan would not go astray from the bench, at least.
The stress response from his foot against the Southern Kings has taken time to come around, although the second row is scheduled to train this week.
Centre Noel Reid has completed his return-to-play protocols from concussion.
Despite the French club's monster budget, they could be seriously hampered should All Black out-half Aaron Cruden fail to recover from a rib injury. There are question marks over their Wallaby centre Joe Tomane (knee) and Fijiian wing wizard Timoci Nagusa (pneumonia).
Springbok tight-head prop Jannie du Plessis is sidelined with a strain to his knee ligaments.
Munster, meanwhile, are crying out for the return of Jean Kleyn, even though the monster lock is still a doubt for Castres in the South of France on Sunday (KO 1.0, Irish time).
Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will be able to turn to Academy second row Sean O'Connor, back from a neck injury, and the fit again loose-head James Cronin has recovered from a knee problem.
In further news, the final Champions Cup place from the PRO14 for next season will be fought out between the fourth placed clubs from each of the two Conferences.
The play-off will happen on the first weekend in May with the club ending the regular season with the most points holding home advantage.
"We are committed to raising the standards of our Championship and the introduction of the Champions Cup Play-Off brings a dynamic element to European qualification," said CEO Martin Anayi.