Cullen backs Heaslip to 'thrive' after five-month injury lay-off
Leo Cullen believes that the fit-again Jamie Heaslip will rediscover his best form, despite suffering a serious back injury.
The Ireland No 8 underwent surgery on his back earlier this year and hasn't played since he cried off at the final hour of Ireland's Six Nations win over England in March.
Heaslip returned to full training with Leinster yesterday and although he is unlikely to feature against the Dragons on Saturday, he is expected to be back in action in the coming weeks.
The emergence of Jack Conan has heaped the pressure on Heaslip to earn back his place but Cullen has backed the 33-year old to rise to the challenge.
"Jamie is returning to play today," Cullen confirmed.
"Jamie has had plenty of challengers over the years. He is a great competitor and a fantastic professional in the way he goes about his business. I think he is going to thrive in the challenges that come to him.
"He was unlucky when you think about it. He pulled out of the England game. Peter O'Mahony comes in. He was man of the match and then goes on to captain the Lions a few months later.
"The message is there: 'You have to take your opportunity when it comes along.' Jamie will be gunning, ready to go.
"The injury has been a bit slower than he would've liked but he is a great competitor, always has been. I am sure he will rise to whatever challenge is there."
Meanwhile, the fall-out from Ireland's disastrous women's World Cup campaign continued as they were the biggest fallers, dropping three places to ninth in the latest world rankings.