Thursday 22 August 2019

Cullen opts to rest big guns for dead rubber ahead of final


Leo Cullen. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Leo Cullen. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Having long secured top spot in Conference B of the PRO14, Leinster coach Leo Cullen has opted to rest his front-line players for the final game of the regular season against Ulster with the Champions Cup final in mind.

Final opponents Saracens will start key men like Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola in their Premiership game against Wasps today, but the champions' starters have been given two weekends off to prepare for their European final.

Safe in second and with a quarter-final against Connacht at home next week, Ulster have also wielded the changes for the Kingspan Stadium clash.

There is a lot more on the line in Limerick where Munster hope to apply maximum pressure on Conference A leaders Glasgow Warriors.

Three points clear going into their final game against Scottish rivals Edinburgh, Dave Rennie's side need to match Munster's result to progress.

Johann van Graan has retained 11 of the team that started against Saracens in last week's European semi-final loss for today's visit of Connacht to Thomond Park in the hope that his side can leapfrog the leaders into top spot.

The conference winners get next weekend off as the quarter-finalists go head to head, while they also have home advantage in the semis.

Connacht know they are facing a play-off trip to Belfast next weekend, but the make-up of the second quarter-final is not yet known.

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Benetton are on 52 points in third place in Conference B, one point ahead of Edinburgh (51) with Scarlets fifth on 50 points.

The Italians face local rivals Zebre, with Edinburgh hoping to take advantage of any slip against Glasgow and Scarlets retaining a slim chance as they take on Dragons in the Principality Stadium.

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