Wednesday 13 December 2017

Cullen: Dragons have had better preparation than us

Cullen:
Cullen: "He's done incredibly well, Birch." Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Bernard Jackman is likely to get a better understanding of the scale of the task that he has on his hands this afternoon when the Dragons host Leinster.

Having home comforts is one thing but taking on the team with the strongest squad in the championship will reiterate how much this is a long-term project in the Welsh valleys.

Jackman and Leo Cullen know each other only too well from his time at Leinster. The former hooker and Cullen, the lineout caller, worked closely together and the Blues boss has nothing but admiration for what his opposite number has achieved.

"What he did in France, Grenoble were in the PRO D2 at the time, just that process," Cullen said. "They got promoted and got brought on. He ended up running the show over there.

"He's done incredibly well, Birch. I watched a lot of Grenoble playing over the last few seasons. I've seen snippets of Dragons over pre-season so you can definitely see his style and the way they are playing.

"I'm curious to see how we go against them. They've had better prep in many ways because they've got that cohesion probably nailed on a bit better than we have at the moment.

"It's always a tough place to go. Leinster don't have a fantastic record, maybe last year aside, but it has been a reasonably challenging place to go. I'm sure they'll be well fired up for the first game at home this season."

Scott Fardy makes his competitive debut for Leinster in the engine room, while so too does the exceptional Jordan Larmour on the wing.

Larmour, who starred for the Ireland U-20s at the Six Nations earlier this year, is one of the most exciting talents in the country right now and has already spent time in the senior international camp last November.

James Ryan also falls into that category and, three months after making his Ireland debut, the powerful lock is in line to play his first senior Leinster game from the bench.

Zane Kirchner will play against his former club and he will have has hands full against a back-line that is littered with threats.

Leinster have been slow out of the traps in recent seasons. They may be without the majority of their front-liners but their strength in depth should come to the fore and help get them off to a winning start.

Verdict: Leinster

Dragons - Z Kirchner; A Hewitt, T Morgan, J Dixon, H Amos; G Henson, C Davies; B Harris, E Dee, L Brown; M Screech, C Hill (capt); J Thomas, J Benjamin, H Keddie. Reps: R Buckley, G Garrett, L Fairbrother, R Landman, M Williams, T Knoyle, A O'Brien, J Rosser.
Leinster - R Kearney; A Byrne, R O'Loughlin, I Nacewa (capt), J Larmour; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; C Healy, S Cronin, M Bent; D Toner, S Fardy; D Leavy, J van der Flier, M Deegan. Reps: J Tracy, E Byrne, A Porter, J Ryan, J Conan, N McCarthy, C Marsh, B Daly.
REF - M Adamson (SRU)

Dragons v Leinster,
Live, Sky Sports, 3.15

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