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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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Jamie Heaslip left out of Leinster's Champions Cup squad

The number eight remains out of action with a back problem.

Heaslip suffered a relapse in training earlier this month.
Heaslip suffered a relapse in training earlier this month.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

A CLOUD OF uncertainty remains over the fitness of Jamie Heaslip after it was confirmed that he has been left out of Leinster’s Champions Cup squad.

The Ireland number eight has been sidelined with a back injury since March and having returned to training earlier this month, suffered a relapse which set him back in his comeback.

Leinster say he has not made sufficient progress to be included in the province’s initial 40-man panel for the European competition, with Leo Cullen’s side beginning their pool campaign against Montpellier on 14 October.

Stuart Lancaster this week downplayed the seriousness of Heaslip’s lower back problem, which was initially described as a ‘rolled ankle’ when he pulled out of Ireland’s final Six Nations game against England after the warm-up.

Speaking back in May, Heaslip admitted that the injury was worse than first feared and doctors were worried that the damage could be career threatening.

The 33-year-old missed the final few months of last season as well as Ireland’s summer tour to USA and Japan, and could now sit out the first five games of Leinster’s 2017/18 European campaign — although EPCR rules permit clubs to make three swaps (one front row and two others) during the pool stages of the competition.

“It is frustrating, I feel for him,” Lancaster said. “He is such a professional, diligent in terms of his rehab. He is going to get there, but it is the not knowing that is most frustrating for him.

“For us, we miss him at the moment. When you’ve got those Lions players missing, you miss that experience.  It is an injury in the back which you don’t want to take any risks with.

“We want to make sure he is 100% per cent right before he comes back. But, he will be back.”

Although Heaslip’s continued unavailability is a blow for Leinster, Cullen’s options at the back of the scrum remain strong with Jack Conan continuing his outstanding form in the number eight jersey while Max Deegan and Caelan Doris both had good pre-seasons. Rhys Ruddock is, of course, able to fill in there too.

Ahead of Friday’s Pro14 game against Edinburgh, Cullen will address the media at the RDS tomorrow lunchtime and is expected to provide an update on Heaslip’s ongoing rehabilitation.

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Ryan Bailey

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