'James Lowe not the only difficult conversation we've had this week' - Leo Cullen 1 year ago

'James Lowe not the only difficult conversation we've had this week' - Leo Cullen

The calls have been made. Leinster will hope they are the right ones.

Leo Cullen appeared in front of the press at the San Mamés stadium just 15 minutes after his Leinster XV for the Champions Cup final was announced.

The big calls revolve around Luke McGrath returning as scrum-half, Jordan Larmour starting on the right wing and both Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan making the bench, along with Kiwi scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park. His presence means James Lowe is not required and the final backline reserve role goes to Rory O'Loughlin.

"I thought Jamison did well in the semi against Scarlets," Cullen stated. "In many ways he is unlucky not to start."

The headline casualty is Lowe, a vibrant attacking talent that has a couple of defensive frailties but who many expected to start as soon as Fergus McFadden's season-ending injury was confirmed. Asked how hard it was to break the bad news to Lowe, the Leinster head coach replied:

"It's not just James. There's a whole host of players that we had difficult conversations with this week. 

"We've used 37 players in the eight Champions Cup games so far and in [the PRO14] we have used 55 players. It takes a huge amount to get to this stage. But the players have fought hard for each other this year and with that competitive environment, there are always going to be players that miss out."

"It's been a really good, competitive group this year," Cullen added, "and everyone has worked hard for each other. That's what we'll need again tomorrow."

With Lowe missing out, 21-year-old Larmour gets the 14 jersey. Enjoying one hell of a breakthrough season for province and country, Cullen recalled his only previous start on the right wing - taking on Nemani Nadolo in Montpellier back in January.

"Oh he has build up unbelievable experience over the course of the season," Cullen began.

"It's amazing to think that he played [for the first time] in the pre-season against Perpignan back at the start of August.

"But he has a lot of experience around him. He has Isa on the other wing, Rob behind him and Garry and Robbie have a strong relationship, so there are good connections there for him. Jordan has been incredible all year, with the experiences he has built up for us and with Ireland during the Six Nations.

"He had a reasonable challenge, away against Montpellier and Nadolo. Life gets a bit easier for you after that!

"Nothing really fazes him. He goes about his work and is getting better all the time. He has been a pleasure to work with this season."

Racing 92, meanwhile, selected former Munster lock Donnacha Ryan in their second row for this weekend's clash in Bilbao.