Saturday 24 March 2018

Cullen confident in youngsters' ability

James Tracy is one of the young Leinster players coach Leo Cullen will be relying on over the
coming weeks (Sportsfile)
James Tracy is one of the young Leinster players coach Leo Cullen will be relying on over the coming weeks (Sportsfile)
Leo Cullen (Sportsfile)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leo Cullen may have opted to revert to his tried and tested players for last week's defeat to Wasps but he saw enough in the previous week to believe that emerging talents in Leinster are well equipped to cope with the demands during the Six Nations period.

Leinster are set to be without a large bulk of their squad for what is a crucial stage of the season but Cullen doesn't have any fears that his younger brigade won't be able to build on what was a hugely impressive display against Bath at the RDS two weeks ago.

The Blues travel to Wales this evening, then have a week off before the intensity is ramped up once again.

The likes of James Tracy, Ross Molony, Luke McGrath and Garry Ringrose are all expected to play a major role in the coming weeks and Cullen has backed them to deliver.

"Some of those guys acquitted themselves really well. We've massive faith in some of those guys coming through," he said.

"It is another very exciting challenge for them with X amount of players not being available or selection.

"I've seen other teams issue injury reports of 20-odd players. Add to that the international call-ups and that's the situation we find ourselves in, so it's a big strain on our resources.

"We play this game against Dragons. It is going to be a tough challenge going over there. It is a tough place at the best of times. We lost over there last year.

"There is a break of a week. Ulster are playing a Pro12 game that week which is a rescheduled fixture. But, then, we're into a block of games during the Six Nations. Depending on what happens with the Irish squad, there could be a knock-on effect. Will players trickle back? We just have to plan away with what we've got.

"It is an another opportunity for these guys to showcase what they're about and get great experience similar to Bath when we had a lot of younger guys playing in that fixture.

"Thankfully, it was a positive experience for us and some guys showed that day that they are really ready to push on."

Reflecting on last week's disappointing result against Wasps, Cullen conceded that his side need to learn how to manage games better while he admitted that Leinster have plenty of work to do if they are to maintain their play-off place.

"It wasn't a complete drop-off for the first 40 minutes, you know, 15 points to 10 and we created a lot of opportunities in the first half. We had a lot of ball during the game," Cullen maintained.

"But, we gave away 10 points pretty cheaply at the start of the second half. One, we get done off first-phase from a scrum which is pretty disappointing in this day and age.

"We gave away a cheap penalty as well. That was 10 points. Suddenly, we're 15 points behind.

"Then, we just lose our way chasing the game so early. There was still 25 minutes to go in the game against a pretty powerful Wasps team off turnover ball. They just punished us. It's really disappointing.

"I didn't think there was a huge drop-off in terms of the intensity we brought in the first half, just how we managed when we went 15 points down, that was beyond disappointing. We really need to be far better about how we go managing it.

"We missed some tackles. But, it is sometimes the quality of those, the soaking in the tackle. Some guys didn't come out of the game particularly well and some of the tackling quality is something they will have to work on going forward."

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