Friday 22 March 2019

Cullen to shake up team to avoid a domestic crash landing

Cullen: Important to celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile
Cullen: Important to celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Leo Cullen says Leinster hope to learn from the experience of losing the 2011 Celtic League final to Munster a week after securing the Heineken Cup against Northampton, as the focus quickly switches to the Guinness PRO14 semi-final against Munster at the RDS on Saturday.

The coach was captain seven seasons ago when his side came up short at Thomond Park and is planning to shake up his side after a bruising battle with Racing 92.

Home advantage will help and the RDS is bound to sell out for the fixture. Having allowed 24 hours of celebration to culminate in yesterday's homecoming party in Donnybrook, the focus will this morning switch to the visit of a familiar foe, who will be licking their lips at the prospect of bringing the European champions down to earth.

"Even though it wasn't a quick game, it was quite attritional. We'll just see how everyone is, it was two teams who went at it pretty hard," Cullen said.

"Munster, with the prep they'll have had, they'll have got the edge. They're up and running this week, thinking about Leinster and watching the game today having a plan in place.

"It's important our guys celebrate as well, because it's the fourth time this has happened to the club, it's a momentous day.

"We'll reassess and I'll have a look even at that B&I final (which Leinster lost to Ealing on Saturday). There's a couple of guys there who might potentially come into the mix as well.

"We'll try and get a team that is fresh and hungry to go out and do the business. It's back at the RDS, last time we played there we got beaten by Treviso."

Johnny Sexton is a doubt after a groin issue saw him pass the kicking duties on to Isa Nacewa, while Robbie Henshaw and Nacewa himself were both limping as they made their way through the mixed zone.

Leinster do have options to freshen things up for the clash as they go in search of the double.

"In many ways it's a mental challenge more than a physical one, because the guys got a good physical workout today. It's just mentally can we get ourselves to a place where we need to go," Cullen added.

"I almost feel like naturally there'll be hype on Leinster now and Munster are waiting in the background. I know what it's like being in that other team that's waiting in the background. That was the Leinster team when Munster were riding high and we were going into games where no one gave us a chance.

"Do you think players listen to what you guys are writing and think they've got no chance? They think the complete opposite.

"In many ways it just fuels the motivation a little more. Our guys will need to understand that."

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