Leinster lifted by presence of Cullen and Boss for stiff Dragons test
PLAYING the Dragons on Friday night may not have been what Leo Cullen and Isaac Boss had in mind for the third week in November, but while the duo's presence in the Leinster squad may not make them happy, coach Joe Schmidt is only too delighted to welcome them into his plans.
Leinster have an opportunity to extend their winning run to six with victory over the Newport Gwent side, a result that might not command attention in a busy week of international sport, but it would be crucial to boost Schmidt's side's Magners League ambitions.
New prop Clint Newland's giant frame dominated proceedings at training in UCD yesterday and he is set to make his debut, but Leinster are without those involved with Ireland as well as Scotland's Nathan Hines and Argentina's Mariano Galarza, while Declan Kidney's decision to leave Boss and Cullen out of his squad means they are set to feature.
"It's a real bonus for me and for Leinster," Schmidt said. "It's probably not a bonus for those guys, they are very keen to be playing for the national side and I hope their performances with us this Friday -- and, if it continues, next week as well -- will help them press their claims.
"It's very competitive to make the Irish squad at the moment. They've (Cullen and Boss) lots of players competing with them so I'm sure this weekend they'll want to put their best foot forward."
The New Zealander is wary of a Dragons squad who, like Leinster's previous opponents Edinburgh, have not been overly affected by international call-ups and will be close to full strength.
But after a two-week break that Schmidt says has left his squad "invigorated", the Leinster coach is looking forward to getting his side back on the pitch.
"It's a little bit like Edinburgh all over again, except we're a little bit more exposed," he said. "I'm relatively excited about it. I can't promise that it will work out, but I can certainly promise that the young guys won't fault in character or courage.
"They will want to get their hands on the ball like they did against Edinburgh and show some of the qualities that will give us a bit of confidence going forward.
"I think they've appreciated the break; we had a little bit of time, we trained for three days last week -- not the whole week -- and we had a bit of fun on a go-kart track at the end of the week just to break things up. I think when there is a lot of pressure and you finally have a weekend where you don't have to go out physically and play the next day, it's great just to have a pressure valve released a little."