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Leo: It's good to be back

TUS maith, leath na hoibre.

Leo Cullen indulged himself with a wry smile as he gazed out at the torrential downpours and gusty wind that greeted the Leinster squad after their team meeting on Monday afternoon.

These are the days for rolling up your sleeves and relishing your day job. It's passion and talent which brings top-class sportsmen and women to the fore. But there's something inside that burns.

With most of the international players taking to the field for the first on-field session of the season as a group, it was a start. And the Wicklow man believes in starts as he expressed his satisfaction at the efforts made by the wider panel during the opening six rounds of the PRO12, which currently sees the province lying in joint second position in the league table.

Experience has taught Cullen to know, however, that even bigger battles lie ahead.

"Personally, I feel as though, in many ways, the season hasn't really started because it has been disjointed not playing every week -- which is usually the norm at this time of the year. And I can't wait to get started", the 33-year-old revealed, ahead of this evening's trip to Murrayfield to face Edinburgh (7.30).

"There's a lot of excitement around the camp and those of us who were away in New Zealand have been eagerly keeping up to speed with how the squad were faring at home. After a slightly shaky start we have managed to pick up a few good wins on the bounce, which is good to see.

"Given that we were down so many bodies through the World Cup as well as a fairly long injury list, we're in a good place, but we know that we need to push on from here, starting on Friday."

Upon his return from World Cup duty, Cullen took a few days off before returning to camp ahead of schedule last Friday, to "show my face and check in more than anything", as he put it.

He was not alone. The players who had reported back earlier than scheduled indicated the kind of enthusiasm to get back playing which should make for extremely high levels of competition for Leinster over the coming 13 weeks.

"To be honest, I didn't feel as though I needed that much of a break. Once I got over the initial jetlag I felt refreshed and fine overall.

"I took a few days off and went to London with my wife to visit some friends, but you want to get back playing.

"Generally, the lads are managed extremely well here in Leinster, conditioning wise, and there were a few of us who haven't played as much who are raring to go now. You have to give great credit to the performances of the squad while we have been away.

"Even if you take in the 'A' side's win over Ulster last Friday night, a few players really put their hands up for selection. There will have been a few headaches for the coaches this week, and we all know that each time we pull on the jersey we have to take the opportunity to impress.

"That's exactly the kind of environment that we want to foster here."

Cullen knows that any complacency against the men from the Scottish capital will spell defeat, and he warned that the team need only look at the corresponding fixture last season, a 32-24 defeat in the slightly earlier fourth round of the league.

"I remember that game quite vividly," he admitted. "It was Joe's (Schmidt) fourth game in charge and it summed up what was a pretty dark time for the team at that point. Traditionally, Murrayfield has proved to be a tough place for Leinster teams to travel to, and they will be galvanised by having some of their Scotland internationals returning.

"In many ways that game (last year) was a turning point for us, and we managed to go on a bit of a run from there which led into a good win at home to Munster and back-to-back wins in Europe."

Thoughts of this stage last year trigger in Cullen happy memories, and he admits that this week will be an ideal platform for the visit of Munster to the Aviva Stadium.

"Ticket sales have passed the 40,000 mark already and that's outstanding. Playing in front of a full stadium is a massive boost for the squad and it's an occasion that we're all looking forward to.

"We ask a lot of our supporters, but it's them who make occasions like that so special.

"They were the ones who showed their pride and faith in the team early on last year when things weren't going so well for us by coming out so consistently in such large numbers.

"As players, we know what an honour it is to play in front of them, and I hope the supporters understand the huge role that they play in all of our success.

"We enjoyed some really good wins in the Aviva last year and the most recent two, sold out as they were, in the quarter-final and semi-final (of the Heineken Cup), were incredible games to be a part of."

The will to win shows no sign of abating as the returning players bid to continue the good work in taking the team forward.