Saturday 26 May 2018

Cullen can restore Leinster to European force of old - Reddan

Leinster's Eoin Reddan Picture: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Eoin Reddan Picture: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE

Tom Rooney

For the first time in seven years Eoin Reddan is not preparing to embark on a European campaign with Leinster, but the recently retired scrum-half is confident that his old team can make a significant mark on the Champions Cup.

Reddan's final season with Leinster, particularly from a European perspective, was a far cry from heady days he enjoyed under Michael Cheika and Joe Schmidt.

Leo Cullen's first season at the helm was fractured by the absence of his Irish contingent during the World Cup and Six Nations.

This was reflected in how Leinster fared in an exacting Champions Cup pool comprising Bath, Wasps and the mighty Toulon.

They managed just one win, at home to Bath, and for the first time since Schmidt's last season in charge, Leinster played no part in the business end of the continent's top competition.

A first-place finish in the Pro12 was followed by defeat to Connacht in the final - Reddan's last game - which hardly mitigated the ignominy that resulted from their shortcomings in a tournament they had won three times since 2009.

However, Reddan was quick to highlight the lack of Ireland internationals available to Cullen and his relatively callow coaching ticket.

"If you could imagine 17 players coming back from injury today for the game at the weekend, that will give you an insight into what he was facing, as a first-time coach as well," he said of the return of Irish players to the Leinster camp 12 months ago.

Reddan was very impressed by Cullen's coaching acumen last term and stressed that he will continue to grow into a role some wondered if he had assumed prematurely.

"Leo is always trying to get better, always trying to learn and he's just so open to new ideas," he said. "He's always wondering about what he's doing, how he's doing it and what will work better.

"The more time he has with players, there will be a better outcome. I think he did very well last year and he'll continue to improve as he goes on, regardless of how long he's in the game."

Leinster entertain a Castres outfit tomorrow that have not won in the competition since 2013 and, perhaps more pertinently, are without a victory in their last seven away games.

Following Leinster's Pro12 win over Munster at the Aviva last Saturday, Reddan believes they are suitably equipped to overcome the French invaders.

"Leinster look great. They'll have a tough game this week but I think they're up to it. They played quite well last week - they were clinical, had a good set-piece, so they'll be in a good space. So hopefully they came down early in the week and come back up for Saturday."

Reddan was not the only veteran No 9 Leinster lost at the end of last season, with Isaac Boss also hanging up his boots.

They recruited Kiwi Jamison Gibson-Park who, along with Luke McGrath, has the province adequately stocked at scrum-half, according to Reddan.

"Jamison and Luke are both great players and seem really robust, so Leinster look well-covered there," he said.

Irish Independent

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