Leo Cullen says Jamie Heaslip could require second operation

Leinster's Jamie Heaslip

Ruaidhri O'Connor at the RDS

LEINSTER coach Leo Cullen says Jamie Heaslip could require a second operation on his back injury.

The Ireland No 8 has not played since the Six Nations clash against Wales in March and underwent surgery on the injury before the end of last season.

He returned to training in pre-season and was planning a return to action during the two-match tour of South Africa but suffered a relapse in training and is consulting with a specialist about the best course of action.

Cullen left Heaslip out of his European squad and while he can be added back in as a replacement during rounds 1-4 and as an extra player ahead of the final two games, he says the province are unclear as to when he will be able to play again.

"I'm not so sure. It will depend if he has to go for another procedure or not. Okay so, he has to weight that up with the surgeon and the specialist that he's seeing,” Cullen said.

"That will be the decision he'll have to come to himself and with the help of the medics as well.

"So he had a disc problem with his back, you have a disk leak when you have a microdisectomy I think they call it now."

Cullen said he suffered a similar problem during his own career and still experiences problems with his lower back to this day.

"It's just difficult, with the injury such as that. I remember I had an injury very, very similar, and I remember I was picked in a team, so similar to what happened to Jamie, and it was the day before the game, it was at home, and I think I traced it back to an exercise I did in the gym earlier in the week,” he said.

“And I had this stiffness in my back that was gradually building up and I was literally lying at home watching rugby...we were playing on the Sunday and we hadn't had a teamer as we normally do on the Saturday after training on the Friday.

"I remember ringing Arthur Tanner, who was our doctor who has now passed away, and I rang him on the Sunday morning of the game and said, 'Arthur, I can barely move my back here', and that's how suddenly it had come on for me'.

"I didn't have surgery on it, and I still feel the effects of it now - and that was back in 2005. So it's what, over 12 years ago and I still feel the effects of that. So they're tricky injuries.

"Even this morning I was reading about Mike Sherry being out for a year with his back and now he's back involved, so they can be slow.

"So apologies for vagueness, but it's very difficult for us to give definitive answers on an injury that is grey.

"And yeah it's a difficult time for Jamie because of that uncertainty, so that's the way it's going to be unfortunately.

"We would have loved to have seen Jamie maybe back now, we thought originally the surgery would be straight-forward, that's what we would have hoped for, but it hasn't been as straight-forward as we would have liked.

"I was in this situation whereas I didn't have surgery at the time, I made my way back and still feel the effects of it now 12 years later.

"So that's just the nature of the injury and everyone just needs to be patient and understand it's a complicated injury that Jamie has

"I remember at the time sitting down and I went in to see someone about the injury and it was quite a dark picture that was painted, but then I went on a course, a rehab programme, and I was back in 12 weeks.

"But I definitely had issues and if I was to have my time again I probably would have opted to have this microdisectomy procedure, but there have been huge advances even since I was playing the game and sports medicine is changing all the time.”

Despite the lack of clarity around the injury, Cullen believes the influential No 8 will make a return.

"Definitely, yeah. Jamie is very professional in how he hard he works to come back," he said.

Cullen welcomes back four of his 2016 Lions for tomorrow night’s clash with Edinburgh at the RDS, with Johnny Sexton captaining the side.

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