Saturday 20 January 2018

Cullen: Play-offs a reward for fans

Leinster's Leo Cullen believes the Pro12's play-off system is good for the game. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Leo Cullen believes the Pro12's play-off system is good for the game. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

For the third time in five seasons, Leinster finished top of the Pro12 table, but Leo Cullen fully favours the play-off system.

Cullen, who could well play his final game in a Leinster jersey tomorrow before embarking on his coaching career with the province, believes that the rewards for finishing in first place is enough motivation for teams.

 “I'm a fan of the play-offs, particularly the way it works in the Pro12. If you get a home semi, it's not like it's a neutral final – it's also at home,” Cullen mused.

“There is plenty of incentive there and it's as much a reward for your own fans who don't have to travel.

“They have better access to the games – that is plenty of reward in many ways.”

A Saturday evening kick-off at a packed RDS; the stakes don't come much higher than an Irish semi-final derby and as Cullen himself commented, it heightens the sense of occasion.

“The semi-finals and finals are big occasions so they (play-offs) are important. We have almost gone past that argument.

“Play-offs are good for the game because it creates these big occasions and there is enough incentive for teams to finish higher up the ladder.

 “There is going to be even more incentive with the qualification for the new European format. That makes it a bit more challenging.

“All the games will carry some sort of significance coming into the latter rounds I would imagine.”

Meanwhile, coach Matt O'Connor has rued the loss of Richardt Strauss, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season having undergone surgery to repair his injured hamstring last Monday.

O'Connor also allayed injury doubts over Cullen and Eoin Reddan, while a decision will be taken later today on whether or not Mike McCarthy will be fit enough to be included.

Luke Fitzgerald again misses out with a groin injury.

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