Tuesday 20 August 2019

Experienced Dundon happy to take on leadership role

Leinster's Aaron Dundon during squad training
Leinster's Aaron Dundon during squad training
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Of the 25 Leinster players initially called up to various World Cup squads, just seven will return to the province as they get set to kick off their campaign in Edinburgh tonight.

When Leo Cullen took over as a head coach, he knew the scale of the task that lay ahead in the first few months of his tenure.

With Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss both named in Joe Schmidt's final 31-man squad, hooker Aaron Dundon knows that he has a golden opportunity to stake his claim. At 33, Dundon is one of the more senior players left in the Leinster squad and he accepts that there is extra responsibility on his shoulders to lead by example.

"We need experience," the New Zealander admitted.

"We're all itching to go. The lads have been working well together and have been digging deep for each other in pre-season. The younger boys have been doing really well. You can see that their experience is growing every day, just by training with the more senior lads that are around.

"I definitely feel as if I've taken more of a leadership role this year. With the 25 lads who are away with various World Cup squads, you have to step up, especially when you've been around the set-up for a few years.

"I'm relishing that role. I've already helped a few of the younger lads, just by chatting to them."

As well as playing for Leinster, Dundon has spent the last few years coaching Newbridge College and will this year take up a position with Clontarf.

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His coaching experience not only gives him a greater understanding of the messages that Cullen and his backroom staff are trying to get across but it also allows him to help the younger players embed themselves into the professional environment.

"It definitely helps. I understand a lot more what the coaches are going through and how they're explaining drills. It definitely helps me mentor the younger lads," Dundon said. "I pass on the knowledge that I've learned from coaching to them. Obviously the two younger lads, James Tracy and Bryan Byrne, have done really well.

"It is a massive opportunity for the younger guys to step up. A lot of them already have been (stepping up) and I'm looking forward to seeing a few of them play."

Last season's poor record during the international period has been put to one side and Dundon insisted that lessons have been learned ahead of the new campaign.

"We've had the same squad for the last six or seven weeks going through pre-season. It's been the same group of lads and we've been preparing well," he enthused. "We've just got capture this opportunity that all the players are going to have with the guys who aren't available.

"We were obviously very disappointed with how last season finished. Obviously eight losses in the Pro12 wasn't up to our standard but we've just got to forget about that and move on to the new season."

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