Wednesday 11 December 2019

'It has this pre-season feel about it' - Leo Cullen proud of Leinster's effort amid 'unusual' schedule

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen praised his players' doggedness in their win over Lyon. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen praised his players' doggedness in their win over Lyon. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leo Cullen says Leinster could have made life easier for themselves in Lyon, but the coach praised his players' character in dogging out a 13-6 win.

Facing a physical side in difficult conditions, the four-time champions spent plenty of time in their own half defending but held the Top 14 leaders at bay. Leinster lost the corresponding fixture to Toulouse last season and Cullen was pleased to make it two wins out of two ahead of their back-to-back matches against Northampton Saints next month.

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And, while he feels the team are still struggling to gel as they integrate their Ireland players into the team, the Leinster coach is happy to have nine points on the board after two games against Benetton and Lyon.

"It's a win in France and that's very, very pleasing," Cullen said.

"We struggled in this round two game last season, we referenced that a lot this week.

"You can see it's a little bit different, Stu (Lancaster) and I came over here a few weeks ago for the Bordeaux game and Bordeaux were 10 points up and Lyon came back. It was flashing in my head.

"We had chances a couple of times to kill the game off, but it was a pretty scrappy game. 10-0, could we have kicked on? We had a couple of chances, but we weren't giving it to people on the edges, carrying into contact and just being a little bit inaccurate across the board.

"So, we expected it to a certain degree because it still feels like we're only trying to get going again. It has this pre-season feel about it, with very, very big games at the weekend. It's tricky.

"We'll be better for it, hopefully.

"We're back into the Guinness PRO14, Glasgow away and that's a big challenge over there.

"Then we're into Northampton back-to-back.

"It's very unusual run of games, four European games in five weeks with a different competition sandwiched in between.

"It's trying to flit between the two, understanding they're very, very different.

"I see Northampton had a good win themselves, which makes things tight. It's the haves and the have-nots at the moment, but one of those teams could win two games and keep alive within the pool.

"Northampton are a team we know well. They're a team we've had plenty of battles with in the past."

Although Leinster will regret a couple of missed opportunities when players opted to hold on to the ball when a pass might have broke the game open, there was no faulting their effort.

"When we really, really needed to dig in we have that gear which is pleasing," he said.

"Particularly when Jordan (Larmour) gets sin-binned. We're inaccurate at the scrum, the ball pops out and it's hacked through.

"Suddenly, we're scrambling, is it in or out? Jordan has a gamble, you need to just check with the referee on those ones really.

"Unfortunately, we end up with a man in the bin, but it's pleasing the way we dig in there. Some really good 'D' on the line; we deal with the scrum first and foremost with eight, only six backs.

"We dig in there, they make a mistake. We get a scrum, we clear our lines and have another chance down the other end and misfire another lineout.

"We end up back in our own '22 again.

"It was a bit like that, but when we really needed to dig in we were able to.

"It's good we were able to dig in when we needed to and got the job done. It's just about getting the job done at the moment, isn't it?

"On we got to the next one, it's such a big block of games. It's amazing block of games for all the teams. Glasgow away next week, then Northampton away. A couple of big weeks on the road for us."

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