Sunday 17 December 2017

Positive result before South Africa trip vital, warns Cullen

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Behind the scenes in Leinster HQ this week, the club have been working overtime as they try and organise the messy logistics involved in travelling to and from South Africa at such short notice, but on the pitch the players can ill-afford to take their eye off the ball at home against the Cardiff Blues this evening (7.35).

While a poor result this early in the campaign won't make or break their season, it is one thing bouncing back the following week against familiar opponents but travelling to the southern hemisphere for back-to-back games, the second of which is at altitude, could prove problematic in itself.

The great unknown lies ahead in the next two weeks but for now, ensuring that Leinster don't slip up against a Cardiff side who were overturned by Edinburgh on their own turf in last week's opener is Leo Cullen's sole focus.

"We saw it last year," Cullen warned.

"The players saw clips of us this week, of us literally hanging on at the end of the game where Isa (Nacewa) makes a cover tackle in the top corner when Cardiff were a point behind and they made a big line bust up the side of the field and it was only a forward pass when play came back to the other side of the field that we kept them out - a forward pass or they were scoring.

"They would have been potentially six points ahead with three minutes to go with us kicking off. That's how close it is. Even the game in Wales, we were hanging on as well again.

"There's so many challenges with the format of the new system. I've said it before. We're slightly disadvantaged in that we have 10 homes games versus 11 away.

"Other teams in our group that have an advantage straight away have more home games plus if you look at we're playing the Irish teams home and away but the next, what I would call ranked teams, which are probably Glasgow and Ospreys.

"We've to play them both away and we don't get to play them at home so I think we have a very, very tough draw of games so every point is vitally important for us this year."

Devin Toner makes his 200th appearance for the club while Jordan Larmour makes his second. That in itself is indicative of the kind of balance that Leinster have in their squad this season.

"It's amazing," Cullen said of Toner's impressive milestone. "You'd hope that Dev has plenty of rugby left in him. You'd hope he would get to a pretty high number, potentially. There have been 50 caps for Ireland as well.

"There is huge capacity for further growth in Dev which is exciting. There's definitely more in him. His body shape is so unusual and unique for someone that size. It has taken time."

Leinster didn't take any time at all to hit their straps against the Dragons last weekend but Cardiff should provide more of a challenge than their Welsh counterparts.

It is, however, unlikely to be enough to leave Leinster scrambling to bounce back in the uncharted territory next week.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster - R Kearney; A Byrne, R O'Loughlin, I Nacewa (capt), J Larmour; R Byrne, L McGrath; C Healy, J Tracy, M Bent; D Toner, S Fardy; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan. Reps: S Cronin, E Byrne, A Porter, M Kearney, D Leavy, N McCarthy, C Marsh, B Daly.

Cardiff Blues - R Williams; A Cuthbert, G Smith, R Lee-Lo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; R Gill, M Rees, K Assiratti; S Davies, D Welch; M Cook, J Navidi, J Turnbull. Reps: K Myhill, C Domachowski, D Lewis, J Down, S Bennett, T Williams, J Evans, M Morgan.

REF - A Brace (IRFU)

Leinster v Cardiff Blues,

Live, TG4, 7.35

Irish Independent

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