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Leo Cullen eases fears of Luke Fitzgerald's Leinster retirement

By Cian Tracey

The sight of Luke Fitzgerald hobbling out of Leinster's warm-up prior to their draw in Treviso last weekend has sadly become commonplace, but Leo Cullen yesterday allayed fears that the 27-year-old could be forced into an early retirement.

Fitzgerald has been plagued with injuries in his stop-start career and underwent surgery on groin and abdominal problems last season, but his latest problem has come as another setback.

"He was just a bit tight in around the hips," Cullen said. "He will rehab over the next couple of days and we'll see how he looks later in the week.

"From a coach's point of view, we're very concerned that if he has any sort of issue, even as late as that, we are prepared for it.

"He was literally beside me. He was one of the most vocal guys in the circle at that time. Two minutes later, he is beside the posts getting seen by the doctor," the forwards coach explained.

Despite the latest issue, Cullen doesn't believe that Fitzgerald will have to follow his former team-mate Eoin O'Malley into premature retirement.

"It is a totally different situation. I don't think so, no," Cullen said. "If you play rugby, it is an occupational hazard. It is probably something you always have at the back of your mind.

"We'll manage him through and see how he goes. Hopefully, we'll get to the bottom of it. It is very frustrating when you get niggles."

Leinster, meanwhile, hope to welcome back some of their players from international duty as they get set for a crucial run of games.

League leaders Ospreys visit the RDS on Saturday (5.15pm kick-off) and Cullen is hoping to be able to include a couple of the players who were involved in Ireland's impressive November series.

"There's no real general rule with managing guys back. It is on an individual basis," he said. "Guys who have been starting games haven't featured as much, but we'll manage the other guys who have to play different minutes. We'll assess them during the week."

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