Tuesday 26 September 2017

Cullen puts Irish ambitions to one side as he keeps focus on Euro push

David Kelly

David Kelly

In previous times, such as November's frustrating period when he was on the outside watching in, Leo Cullen may have allowed his exasperation to cloud his ability to live in the moment.

Now, the minutes are being lived and he's no longer watching the clock. Should another international fallow period ensue, Cullen will instead simply redouble his efforts to retain his focus on Leinster's Heineken Cup charge, with a tough trip to Racing Metro looming.

"I'm just worried about performing for this team at the moment and all that other stuff falls into place after that," smiles the Leinster captain when asked whether he is fretting over tomorrow's squad announcement by Declan Kidney.

"But yeah, obviously, I'd love to be involved in the Six Nations in some shape or form. I'm really enjoying myself, enjoying my rugby at the moment.

Enjoyable

"It's been a different challenge with Joe (Schmidt) and a new coach brings new ideas. I think I'm learning more and more all the time and it's an enjoyable part to be playing at the moment."

Cullen is not alone in being re-energised by the arrival of a new coach; despite winning the Holy Grail under Michael Cheika, it is as if the entire squad has been renewed by the passing of the coaching baton.

"There's certainly a feeling of a bit of a clean slate with a new coach coming in," agrees Cullen. "He didn't really have any preconceived ideas about players from what I gather. He's willing to give guys a chance.

"Everyone wants to get a result in France (on Friday). We came unstuck in the semis last year, away in France. We need to get used to winning away."

Meanwhile, Ulster will be without their Springbok scrummaging ace BJ Botha for the crucial Heineken Cup trip to Aironi this Saturday.

Botha had a scan yesterday for a damaged left elbow and while there was no dislocation, he sustained ligament damage which could see him sidelined until mid-February. Declan Fitzpatrick is now expected to take over in the No 3 jersey.

Irish Independent

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