Leinster could face the Southern Kings and Cheetahs without several key players due to PRO14 restrictions and the Irish player welfare system.

Last season’s semifinalists Leinster, who face the South African sides back-to-back in rounds three and four, are limited to a travelling part of 40, players and staff included.

Without the possibility of flying players out, the five Leinster British & Irish Lions, who coach Leo Cullen said were in with a chance of returning for the round four clash at the Cheetahs, are set to miss out.

The delayed return of Johnny Sexton, Sean O’Brien, Robbie Henshaw, Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong — due to the IRFU player welfare system — as well as injuries to Jamie Heaslip and Garry Ringrose could give Cullen a selection headache.

“A lot of planning and thought goes into who comes back [to Leinster] when, who they come back with,” Cullen told Irish media at yesterday’s PRO14 launch.

“That’s complicated at the best of times, but throw in a trip to South Africa in round three and four … it’s not like we’re allowed to fly guys out, fly guys home.

“That’s not the way it’ll work. We’re being told that we’ll have our tour party, and then we’ve to do our best with that. The rules are being made up as we go along so it’s going to take a bit of time.”

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