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Cullen spills beans on hazard of Hines

What Leinster have lost in one former Rugby League convert in Nathan Hines, they have gained in another in Brad Thorn. No one knows this better than captain Leo Cullen.

Scotland international lock Hines wanted a two-year extension to his contract at Leinster. The IRFU was not willing to bend the knee on that request.

And so the man from Wagga Wagga opted for greater financial reward and the longer two-year deal at Clermont-Auvergne in what has been a mutually beneficial partnership between club and player.

Now, it looks like 35-year-old Hines could be about to haunt the club that would not give him what he wanted. He has been in superb form at his new home in the Massif Central.

"Hinesy is just a streetwise sort of character," said Cullen. "Brad is all power. We lost a good one. We are very lucky, in Brad, to have another very good one in return.

"Both of them are very strong scrummagers. Their breakdown work is also an asset to their games. They know their jobs and do them very well."

The signing of Hines's direct replacement Steven Sykes, the Natal Shark, did not work out for Leinster. He was hampered by injury and a personal incapacity to shake off the homesickness that was a constant bedfellow. That contract was cancelled by mutual consent and, sure enough, Sykes has been ever-present for the Sharks in the Super-15 this season.

An Achilles operation to Cullen left Leinster looking decidedly light of second row resources just after the turn of the year, despite the sure development of Devin Toner.

Cue the arrival of 37-year-old Thorn, a World Cup winner and renowned fitness freak, to give Leinster a different kind of edge in the tackle and at the ruck.

"Brad is a very powerful individual, coming from Aussie Rugby League.

"He is very strong in the collision, either when he is carrying or whether he is defending. That is what his game is about," said Cullen.

Thorn is a menace at ruck time, having the unusual gift of moving a ruck all by himself, such is the strength of the man. He has broken weight-lifting records in the club and has astounded his team-mates with his attitude to training. This might lead one to presume Leinster have got the better of the Hines-Thorn swap. Not necessarily so. Thorn will leave in a month to return to Japan and Hines will go on wreaking havoc in France and Europe for another year -- at least.

"Hinesy is a little more subtle, I suppose. He is pretty well known for his offloading skills out of those soft hands. It is something we are well aware of for Sunday," added Cullen.

"Straight away he has become a key player in the way they play which is a credit to him because he is only in their team a short period of time."

It is unique skill of getting the ball away at close quarters that makes Hines a difficult player to tie down. He just needs one split-second to get the ball away and it could be curtains.

Witness Hines' offload to Aurelien Rougerie for Lee Byrne's try in the quarter-final against Saracens last month. Leinster have been warned. Thorn will be ready.