LEINSTER have extra reason to hope that Brian O'Driscoll doesn't hang up his boots at the end of the season after it emerged that they will have to replace him from within.
The IRFU will not allow the European champions permission to sign a foreign star to fill the Ireland legend's spot because Munster have already got a non Irish-qualified centre on their books in Casey Laulala.
Leinster want O'Driscoll to extend his contract beyond the end of the season, but team manager Guy Easterby says they will respect the 34-year-old's decision if he wishes to retire.
O'Driscoll, whose wife Amy Huberman gave birth to their first child on Sunday, has hinted that this will be his last season and a Lions tour would be a perfect way to go out.
"From our point of view he has still got a lot to offer," Easterby said.
"He will know himself, he has just had a new baby so God knows how that is going to affect his life.
"He has got some big decisions to make and he is very capable of making them on his own. He is certainly one we would look to have around.
"Brian is a mature guy – we have been speaking to him constantly with the things that have been coming up in his life to make sure he is right."
Asked if there was a final date that Leinster need O'Driscoll's decision by, Easterby said there wasn't, because they are not going to look beyond their current options.
"It is not like we are going to go outside of Irish players. We can't just contract foreign players," said the former Ireland scrum-half.
"If you were waiting on a foreign player for a spot and they needed to know, then maybe.
"Luckily this time we haven't got that sort of time pressure on. It is about making the right decision and us being happy.
"Brian was never going to go on forever. I don't think we would be allowed get in a world-class centre because Casey Laulala down in Munster is covering the position.
"Eoin O'Malley came back at the weekend, he was our 50th player in the Pro12 this season, and Brendan Macken has had an awful lot of game time and he is beginning to show signs of improvement.
"Replacing Brian with another Brian is impossible. It is something we are aware of and we just have to get on with that and deal with it."
Leinster are looking outside Ireland for a replacement for Jonathan Sexton, but Easterby says that the lack of notice of the fly-half's departure to France has left them scrambling.
"It is quite late in the day to be looking, it's not ideal," he said. "There are one or two names, we are not just going to sign someone for the sake of it."
Meanwhile, Easterby is hopeful that Fitzgerald will commit his future to Leinster, while a decision on second-row Leo Cullen's retirement has yet to be made.
Back-row Jordi Murphy has agreed a new deal and will be staying on.
Leinster take on Treviso this week and are likely to welcome a number of their internationals back into the fold.
Eoin Reddan, McFadden, Rhys Ruddock, Fitzgerald and Sean Cronin trained in UCD yesterday and could feature.
Isa Nacewa will miss out with a recurrence of his arm injury, while Fionn Carr and Heinke van der Merwe should return after missing Friday's win over Cardiff.