Monday 5 December 2016

There is still plenty of growth in the team, insists Cullen

Published 11/11/2016 | 02:30

Leo Cullen’s week-off is well earned after Leinster’s bonus point victory over Zebre. Picture: Sportsfile
Leo Cullen’s week-off is well earned after Leinster’s bonus point victory over Zebre. Picture: Sportsfile

A week off for the Leinster squad and a deserved one at that as Leo Cullen's side consolidated their place at the top of the table with a comfortable bonus-point away in Italy against Zebre.

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It's been an impressive start to the season for Leinster and while it is still very much that after only eight games, they appear to have proven that lessons have been learned from last season.

That applies to the coaching staff as well as the players and Cullen was suitably delighted after his young side put Zebre to the sword last Saturday.

It was a rampant performance in which Ross Byrne controlled the game but it was his namesake Adam Byrne who grabbed with headlines with a hat-trick that makes him the province's top try scorer for the season (four in total).

Byrne has typified the philosophy within the Leinster camp in recent weeks in that you must take your chance when it is presented to you. The Klldare native has certainly done that.

Blistering

A powerful winger with blistering speed, Byrne is proving to be an accomplished finisher as well. A latecomer to the game, Gaelic football was Byrne's first sport growing up and he has attributed the GAA to enhancing his skills on the rugby pitch.

Having graduated from the Academy to a senior contract, Byrne is set to see even more game time over the coming weeks and his head coach praised him for his recent performances.

"It was a really pleasing day for Adam," Cullen said after the win in Parma.

"He's worked incredibly hard and been patient to get his opportunity. In the last couple of weeks he's done exceptionally well."

The Leinster squad will return to training next week before they turn their attention to back-to-back Pro12 meetings with Welsh opposition.

With Cullen set to be without his front-line international contingent, Byrne and the younger players will again be called upon to ensure that the same standards are met during the international window.

At times last year, Leinster struggled during those periods but there appears to be a more steely toughness about them this time around. Cullen, however, is refusing to get carried away and he insisted that there is still plenty to come from his side.

"I think there's still a lot of growth in the team," he said.

Opportunity

"We get a week off. It's been pretty flat out. It's been a good 15/16 block going hard at it. Players will get a bit of time off and come back in. There are a lot of areas we can get better at. It's a good opportunity for us to continue to do some work with the younger players while the November series is going on.

"There is still a huge amount of growth and a lot of things we can get better at so it's an exciting challenge."

Mike Ross was the only casualty from last weekend's win as a difficult couple of weeks for the veteran tighthead became even more so.

"Mike Ross came off with a hamstring. We'll get him assessed. It'll be a few weeks anyway by the looks of it," Cullen revealed.

There isn't a squad in the Pro12 with the same depth as Leinster and although that will be tested over the coming weeks, they have been down this road before.

Cullen believes that there is still more to come from Leinster which is ominous for the rest of the league, but based on the first part of the season, it is difficult to disagree.

Irish Independent

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