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Dan Sheridan/INPHO Jordan Larmour is expected to be involved this weekend.
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Cullen: Grand Slam winners not guaranteed starting places at Leinster
The eastern province resume their Pro14 campaign away at Ospreys on Saturday.

LEINSTER ARE EXPECTED to be boosted by the return of several of Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning squad for the resumption of their Pro14 season this weekend, but Leo Cullen says there is no guarantee they will slot straight back into the team.

While the likes of Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy, Dan Leavy and Rob Kearney have all been given time off after the Six Nations, a number of players — including Jordan Larmour and Joey Carbery — have returned for provincial duty ahead of Saturday’s visit to the Ospreys [KO 7.35pm].

Ahead of next weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens, the trip to the Liberty Stadium will give Cullen the opportunity to run the rule over his options while also giving players the chance to build up important minutes.

“We want to have a competitive group and we’ve worked hard to build the depth and bring young guys through,” the Leinster head coach said.

“You’ve got to give them their opportunities to play and see. Some of the young guys are doing really well at the moment. It makes it tough in terms of selection but it’s positive for the overall group because we want to be competitive.

“Some of the Ireland guys have been around, they came in on some of their time off from camp and they’re not million miles away. They came back with good energy on Tuesday and I think it’s important that we just try and continue that momentum that they’ve built over the last few months into next week.”

During the Six Nations window, Leinster won two of their four Pro14 outings and drew their last game 10-10 with Scarlets to stay ahead of the defending champions in the Conference B table with four regular season games remaining.

It means Leinster resume their campaign in a strong position heading into the play-offs, while the province are top seeds in the Champions Cup quarter-finals after winning all six of their pool games before and after Christmas.

The last time Ireland won a Grand Slam, back in 2009 in Cardiff, Leinster — inspired by the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy and Jamie Heaslip — then went onto lift the Heineken Cup with victory over Leicester Tigers at Murrayfield later that season.

Leo Cullen Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Cullen will be hoping his current squad can emulate that feat and use the success of the national team as a springboard to now go on and finish the season strongly in both the Pro14 and Champions Cup competitions.

“It’s been frustrating for some guys because they would have loved to be involved with Ireland as well, so when they all come back together then you get this mix of guys that would have liked to have played more with Ireland and are still hungry to be successful,” he continued.

“And then obviously the guys who have been successful, if you win something you generally want to go out and do it again soon after because the feeling of Six Nations success is quite nice and people want to repeat those feelings again.

“There’s a lot of good things to look forward to, but it’s the short turnaround into big games. You know, if you lose some of these big games then your season could unravel very, very quickly.

“It’s just about trying to get the balance right for the game this week and the game next week — and then we can see how we manage the two weeks after that depending on what’s ahead after that.

“So it’s more making sure that we’re clear on what our plan is for these next two weeks in terms of integrating guys because what’s on later in the season is a little bit different.

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“For us it’s just trying to balance, making sure we have guys fully motivated to deliver on the day, to deliver positive performances that will deliver positive results.”

Leinster head to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday having lost just two games all season, while the province are unbeaten on their last four visits to Wales with their only defeat in the last 11 games with Ospreys coming back in April 2014.

“Ospreys we know have had a bit of a tricky patch, but we know they have a lot of quality players and they seem to have turned a bit of a corner, and it is a tough challenge going over to the Liberty,” Cullen added.

“It’s a tough challenge. A lot of guys will be scrapping to put in a performance to try and get in the team for the following week. They know what’s at stake.”

Leo Cullen was speaking at the announcement of Leinster Rugby’s 10-year naming rights partnership with Energia that will see Donnybrook Stadium renamed Energia Park.

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