Tuesday 25 April 2017

Leo Cullen hits back at Gordon D'Arcy in derby row

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen, right, and Rhys Ruddock during a press conference Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen, right, and Rhys Ruddock during a press conference Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leo Cullen has dismissed Gordon D'Arcy's suggestion that the intensity has gone out of the derby clashes between Leinster and Munster.

The two sides will meet at the Aviva today and Cullen firmly believes that there isn't another club fixture like it in world rugby.

"I think D'Arce has a very blurred view of the past," Cullen said.

"Look back to Leinster v Munster in Dooradoyle, when there was what, 2-300 people playing an interprovincial game.

"When Leinster played against Munster in the RDS, five or six years ago, there was a hell of a lot less than 40,000 people at the game, so I think some of the comments are a little unfair.

"There's a lot of competition now (from other sports), but ask any of the other players does it mean any less now. . . I think you'll see the intensity of the players, and what it means to them.

"In many ways it feels like we're trying to justify this fixture, that it is a great rivalry, because if you went around the world in any rugby environment, they try to explain this fixture.

"So to say this fixture is diminished is really unfair because I would struggle to find a fixture anywhere else in the world that has this sense of rivalry.

"So I think we need to celebrate it rather than try and say it's not the way it once was."

Over 39,000 tickets have been sold and Cullen expects that figure to rise after both sides named starting XVs packed full of internationals.

Robbie Henshaw is set to make his Leinster debut, while Peter O'Mahony will start his first game since suffering a serious knee injury in the World Cup win over France almost a year ago.

"I think it should be a celebration of the Pro12," Cullen said.

"This is two teams going at it in front of 40,000 people, and two teams for whom it means a hell of a lot. It means a hell a lot more than the four or five points that are on offer. So yeah, it is a bit special.

"I think it is a good advert for the league. I don't see it in other leagues around the world as a fixture like this, and it is annual. Granted when something takes place every year we need to celebrate it rather than say 'here we go again'.

"It should be celebrated and I think it's important to celebrate it."

Henshaw will start at inside centre but Cullen insisted that that wouldn't necessarily be his long-term position at Leinster.

"I'm not going to guarantee that's where Robbie Henshaw is going to play for Leinster," said Cullen.

"That's where he's had most of his experience with Ireland. That's where we see him, at the moment. That is not to say he won't play 13 or 15 as well."

Irish Independent

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