Wednesday 13 December 2017

Cullen wary of Cardiff's home form

Leinster’s Richardt Strauss and Cian Healy during the squad training session in Donnybrook this week Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster’s Richardt Strauss and Cian Healy during the squad training session in Donnybrook this week Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

One win in 18 games highlights Cardiff Blues’ struggles against Leinster over the last number of years and despite the fact that the Welsh side were stunned away to Treviso last weekend, Leo Cullen is braced for a tough challenge tomorrow.

Before the defeat in Italy, Cardiff had won four games on the bounce but by and large they have struggled this season as their league position of ninth would suggest.

Cullen is mindful of the fact that Cardiff play their home games on an artificial 4G surface which has in turn seen Leinster train in Donnybrook this week.

Cullen is looking for his side to build on last weekend’s facile win over a hapless Zebre side and although they will be expected to do so, he is urging caution over the task that lies ahead in the Welsh capital.

“That’s a very big game for us and we’re just trying to focus on who’s going to be available as the week goes on,” he said.

“It’s easy to look at Cardiff’s form and say, ‘Oh, they lost away to Treviso at the weekend’ (but) at home, in Cardiff Arms Park, they’ve played five and won four of them so they’re a very strong outfit at home in particular.

“It’s really important that we try and get a result out there because it’s so tight at the top of the league, one point separating the top four teams, you lose a game and the other teams around you win and you’re really scrambling so it’s important that we keep control of what we’re trying to do.

“It’s important that we’re trying to focus on a really important game, there’s guys we’re trying to reintegrate, guys coming back, and there’s always a fine line about them being used to a slightly different environment and we have to make sure we get the balance right.

“It’s about making sure that you’re as organised as possible with the messages that you give, and be ready for a few contingencies along the way. Because things can change.

“It’s important we don’t compromise the preparation of the team, because that’s what’s most important on my end.”

Cullen welcomed the return of Cian Healy and Mike Ross from injury – both of whom came through last week’s game unscathed.

Both props are expected to be involved for Ireland against England in Twickenham next weekend and he has backed them to continue their comebacks.

“It’s anyone’s guess how ready people are from making the step up from playing in the Pro12 to going up to international rugby,” Cullen maintained.

“Some guys handle that change-up in intensity fine, some guys take a little bit of time; both of those guys have done it plenty of times in the past so I wouldn’t see it as a major issue.”

The Leinster coach also praised Ross for his level of consistency and admitted that the veteran’s experience was invaluable to both club and country.

“I think it’s probably his ability to perform his core job,” Cullen said of his former team-mate.

“The scrum is probably the thing that stands him out. He’s a scrummaging tighthead who enjoys the scrum and knows everything about every opponent that he’s going to come up against.

“He has a wealth of experience as well. You know, played in England for a couple of years with Harlequins, had to fight to get his first cap and you know, I presume now that he’s in there for the last couple of years he doesn’t want to give it up lightly. It’s his experience, it’s hard to beat that experience,” he added.

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