Monday 26 June 2017

Cullen wary of Scarlets 'dangerous' attacking threats

Leo Cullen is wary of the threat which Leinster will face in their Guinness PRO12 semi-final. Photo: Sportsfile
Leo Cullen is wary of the threat which Leinster will face in their Guinness PRO12 semi-final. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The Scarlets were sent packing the last time they came to the RDS two months ago but Leo Cullen is refusing to read too much into that hammering as his side get set to welcome the Welsh outfit back to Dublin in next Friday's Guinness PRO12 semi-final.

Leinster know how difficult the Scarlets can be when they are locked and loaded, and Cullen is likely to place far more emphasis on the defeat in Wales earlier in the season rather than the easy win in March.

While the alternate opponents the Ospreys might well have posed less of a threat, Cullen will have spent some of this down week pondering why his side managed to let top spot slip from their grasp.

Mission

Having already had a home semi-final in the bag before travelling north to play Ulster, he conceded that players' minds may have been elsewhere but that will surely not be the case next week as Leinster look to continue on their mission to avenge last year's final defeat to Connacht.

"Scarlets certainly are in form," Cullen warned.

"Go back to the start of the 22 games and they lost the first three. They have come a long way since then.

"They have got a real bounce and momentum from being together with a very steady team. We came unstuck over there in November.

"Over the course of the league a lot of teams have two teams: there is one with the internationals and one without. Scarlets had a very settled team, particularly without their internationals, and probably more so than any other team. They have got themselves into a good position.

"Look at their team: their front-row are all unbelievably good footballers. Tadhg Beirne we know and Jake Ball in the second-row and then whatever back-row combination they have they are very competitive at the breakdown.

"Gareth Davies, if he plays, has a strong running and kicking game.

"(Rhys) Patchell runs the team well. He didn't play in the game here at the RDS and they really missed him that day.

"They have outside backs like Scott Williams, Jonathan Davies, Andy Parks. Liam Williams and Johnny McNicholl. They have so much pace and quality throughout the team."

Potent

Scarlets took a while to find their feet this season but once they did, they have shown a potent attacking threat.

Their defence has improved immeasurably: they conceded 31 points and seven tries fewer than Leinster in the PRO12.

"The Scarlets are a team that can rack up points very, very quickly," Cullen said.

"Last week (against Ospreys) they scored two tries while Rhys Webb was in the bin so they can back up scores like that.

"They're so dangerous and if you're trying to chase the game and turn over the ball they can rack up points late on.

"It's always difficult when you've a man in the bin and you concede two tries, it's almost like the game has pulled away, particularly when you're away from home.

"Johnny McNicholl is very, very quick, and very dangerous off counter-attack. Liam Williams is just a very smart footballer and they have two very strong and quick centres in Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies.

"They have a lot of experience between the two of them. They are a very well balanced team."

Irish Independent

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