D'Arcy still has World Cup role to play, insists Cullen
Leo Cullen believes that Gordon D'Arcy could yet have a vital World Cup part to play for Ireland after confirming that he will hang up his boots in October after a stellar 17-year professional career.
But D'Arcy's former team-mate in the trenches for Ireland and Leinster also appreciates that if Joe Schmidt does overlook the centre, he could yet prove to be a vital cog in a province which will be deprived of at least 20 of its players for the first two months of next season's Pro12 campaign.
"I think so," says Cullen when asked if D'Arcy can still feature at a fourth World Cup to sign off a gilded career in green.
"Having someone of his experience at a World Cup, regardless of whether he plays, could be so important.
"The centre partnership that played in the Six Nations has gone pretty well from what I have seen so it has been difficult for Gordon because he hasn't had a string of games.
"When you get to a World Cup, though, having that experience could be pretty valuable. Having said that, having his experience here could be pretty valuable at Leinster as well."
Leinster back-row Jordi Murphy is just one of the many emerging stars within the squad who have benefited from the experience provided by D'Arcy and admits it will be an eerie feeling not having him around beyond October.
"He's one of the players that I would have seen growing up and when I was getting into rugby he was starring for Leinster and Ireland so it's going to be really strange to see him go," he admits.
"He's next to me in the locker room and he's good craic and we're good mates so I don't know what it's going to be like because I haven't experienced it yet. But it'll be sad to see him go and he'll be a loss to the squad definitely, not just as a player but as a good bloke as well."
Isa Nacewa will also provide much-needed leadership and Cullen defended the re-signing of Leinster's cult hero amidst disquiet that players closer to home have not been allowed the chance to step up.
"Isa will bring a different dynamic," says Cullen. "You think of that World Cup period where you are missing 20 players potentially. There are always going to be a couple of injuries, guys filling in.
"That's the kind of number we are almost budgeting for which is a pretty significant chunk of your squad. There is going to be a bit of an absence of leadership and experience even with the likes of a Gordon D'Arcy and Shane Jennings retiring as well.
"It's going to be good to have a body like Isa. Of course there is a bit of a risk. He has been out of the game for a couple of years.
"But we have had Darragh Fanning who was released by Connacht and was back with St Mary's; he got picked up here. Mick McGrath came in this year. Next year we have Royce Burke Flynn from Clontarf and Ian Hirst from Lansdowne.
"We are constantly looking at the club scene and those guys are contracted for next year. We'll look at the club game as closely as we possibly can and we will pick guys from there if they are deemed suitable."
Leinster can still sign another overseas player but also must consider their World Cup absentees; with two front-rows likely to be absent, they may still sign a fourth overseas player on a short-term deal as emergency cover.
"We may find ourselves in that position where we are missing players in a certain position," says Cullen.
"For example during the Six Nations we were missing four props at the same time. That leaves a massive strain on your resources. All the time we have to put these plans in place so have to try to cover ourselves."