Leo Cullen is fully aware that pronouncements from Ronan O'Gara about the fitness of his La Rochelle players are to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Take Will Skelton for example.

In a move that would make a GAA manager blush, the giant second row was written off for the season by O’Gara last Friday, not included in the Stade Rochelais 23 for Saturday’s win over Stade Francais, then named as a late replacement for Eneriko Buliruarua and got a run out in the last few minutes of the match.

"It was interesting Skelton came back from his season-ending injury," said Cullen in jest after Leinster's URC win over Munster.

"Nothing sinister after the game but he did 15 minutes in a slow-paced game," was O’Gara’s reply to how the miracle man did in his cameo.

"But the positive is he didn’t have a reaction. [Monday] was just a clarity session and he was able to walk.

"[Tuesday] will probably tell more and accordingly if it keeps going to plan, we’ll see how much we can get out of him at the weekend."

Still, all’s fair in love and war and in trying to win the mind games ahead of a Heineken Champions Cup final against a team, Leinster, that are 12-point favourites.

O'Gara (c) is hoping for good news on Kerr-Barlow

This week’s medical update from the former Munster and Ireland out-half includes the news that a scrum-half with two broken bones in his hand is in the running to line out on Saturday at the Stade Melodrome in Marseille.

Last Friday Tawera Kerr-Barlow, according to O'Gara, wouldn't be fit for the final.

"He has two broken bones in his hand but I’m trying to see…I need to get some hurling advice and try and get one of those Mycro gloves," O’Gara told RTÉ Sport.

"So we’ll see what we can do with that in terms of... I mean you’ve got to explore every possibility.

"Depending on his pain threshold, depending, I suppose, on his grip of the ball and depending on, well, the legality of it I think is okay.

"People have played with those hurling gloves in the past.

"We just have to wait and see with that."

Fellow former New Zealand international Victor Vito (above), O’Gara maintains, is also facing a race against time to be fit as La Rochelle look to win Europe’s biggest prize for the first time.

Withdrawn in the 45th minute of the Top14 match on Saturday, O’Gara said: "He’s struggling with an ankle issue. It was typical.

"He was previewed to play 43 minutes and I was trying to get a line-out at the far side of the pitch so he would get the acclamation of the crowd in his final game in Deflandre, which is important for players who have given so much to the club.

"Typically, we had a kick-off reception, he got his foot caught and someone fell on it in an awkward position so he’s sore today.

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"He’s in a moon boot so it’s not ideal obviously. He’s in a massive race against time."

Whether or not that duo are really in or out won’t be known until Friday at midday when the teams are named but Leinster have their own injury concerns with James Lowe and Tadhg Furlong progressing well from their respective shin and ankle injuries.

"Everyone has their own concerns in the lead up to a game and you are trying to buy enough time for yourself to make a decision and enough time for the players," Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster said of the issue.

Will Skelton

"If you've got James Lowe or Tadhg Furlong or Will Skelton, you want them on the field. So you've got a press conference at the start of the week, you are asked the question and you give an honest reply as best you can really.

"We prepare for more than 15 players, we analyse the bench players and the players in the wider squad because who knows what happens...at the end of the day we don’t really know so there’s no point in getting to exercised by it."

La Rochelle, of course, ended Leinster’s chances last season, winning 32-23 in an empty stadium in France before losing the final to Toulouse.

O’Gara will, this time around, have to come up with a plan to deal with his old Ireland rival and subsequent coach while the duo were at Racing 92.

"Twelve months ago, Johnny probably wasn’t playing as good as rugby as he is now," said the Cork man of Sexton’s recent resurgence.

"So that’s a positive for Leinster. They’ll have a different 9 [Jamison Gibson-Park] and a different 10.

"And a few changes up front as well but I suppose their DNA stays the same.

"First of all [Johnny is] a great competitor and he loves rugby.

"People forget that, rugby is such a great game so you play it for as long as you can. If you’re good you keep going and he’s outstaying the rest in his position comfortably.

"But I think he’s also been fuelled, if you remember, there wasn’t much of a deal made by the fact he didn’t make the Lions tour but that would have hurt him deeply.

"So now it’s another example of his excellent resilience and now he’s coming back. I think he’s made changes to his game in the fact he’s always been a good passer of the ball but now he’s become a threat again and which he may have put on the back burner for the past few months.

"But you saw against Toulouse, he has a very good running game, a good passing game, a good kicking game and he’s very good at seeing the opportunity before other people see it.

"That’s what a lot of great 10s do. He sees things quicker than other people and he’s able to manipulate his attackers and defenders into space because they’ve got great cohesion amongst them."

Johnny Sexton (c) and Caelan Doris (r) missed out on last year's semi-final

The general consensus is that Leinster, who can add Caelan Doris to the list of players who missed out last season but will feature on Saturday, are a stronger outfit and they start as clear favourites.

"I admire the way they play the game," added the 45-year-old former Crusaders assistant.

"I think they play the game in a fast but yet highly creative way. You can see that they’re extremely well coached but they also have massive ambition.

"They have a very good group of players but also what’s important as a coach is that you can see their coaches are getting the best out of their players and that for me is what you look to get in your environment, be it Leo or Stuart or Denis Leamy, or Felipe [Contepomi] or Robyn [McBryde].

"I think they’re challenging their players in all aspects of the game and trying to make them complete players, and they look very, very good but I can’t really think about that at the minute. It’s just that you would have admiration for the way they run [their organisation]."

Follow Leinster v La Rochelle (Saturday 4.45pm) in the Champions Cup final via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the RTÉ News app live or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1.