Saturday 20 January 2018

Cullen not looking for 'any excuses'

Leinster’s Ben Te’o is tackled by Adam Hughes of Newport Dragons Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster’s Ben Te’o is tackled by Adam Hughes of Newport Dragons Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

A deflating defeat to Newport Gwent Dragons before heading into a week's break was far from ideal for Leinster but coach Leo Cullen insisted that he wouldn't be making any excuses.

The majority of the squad were given the week off before they will return to prepare for Zebre who arrive in Dublin next Friday but Cullen was left bitterly disappointed at his side's inability to come away with a losing bonus point.

The Welsh side have been struggling in the Pro12 all season but Leinster, who were missing over 30 players, came unstuck against the Dragons in horrendous conditions.

The defeat also brought an end to Leinster's seven-match winning run at Rodney Parade but Cullen admitted that his side created problems for themselves.

"That kick at the end to deny us a losing bonus-point was a kick in the teeth, we certainly didn't help ourselves, we had a few opportunities to exit," Cullen bemoaned. "But we put ourselves under a lot of pressure and gave away that penalty at the end.

"We came out on the wrong side of the referee, and we know we need to be squeaky clean when we come to places like Rodney Parade, because it can be pretty hostile. We were definitely on the wrong end of the officials."

Despite the disappointment, Cullen remained focused on the positives and he maintained that his younger players will learn from the experience as they look to bounce back next week.

"The players worked hard, and it will be a good experience for them, we had a couple of guys gaining their first caps off the bench and Adam Byrne got his first start," Cullen said.

"The experience will stand those guys in good stead, but it's a bit frustrating that we weren't a bit smarter in managing the conditions.

"We forced some passes and gave away some silly penalties, it was a frustrating evening.

"Ian Madigan and Richardt Strauss are two very experienced players, so even though they had limited preparation time because they have been in the Irish camp.

"Trying to juggle players between the two environments can be challenging but they did well when they came on.

"All the guys who played have been around the environment all the time. Some players have been playing in the B&I Cup over the last couple of weeks and some guys have been around the senior team.

"So you have to manage the guys accordingly. I wont be making any excuses, I felt we had a good team, a team that was good enough to win the game. I'm disappointed that we just couldn't get anything from the game."

The defeat may have been untimely but Cullen has certainly welcomed the week off as he looks to allow his players recover after a tough period.

Leinster will find out next week what Irish players will be made available to them for the visit of Zebre but Cullen is confident in the strength in depth of the squad that is at his disposal.

"We've got no game this week after 16 games in a row, so the guys will get a few days off before we come back in. Next up we have Zebre at home at the RDS and we'll be ready for that.

"We'll assess a few guys before then. There is the potential for a few guys to come back in."

Leinster face Zebre twice in two weeks and in between a trip to Cardiff. February is a crucial month for them and after the disappointment against the Dragons, they will be eager to hit back in front of their home supporters.

Irish Independent

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