Sunday 18 March 2018

Cullen wary of resurgent Warriors

Leinster's Isa Nacewa in action during training (SPORTSFILE)
Leinster's Isa Nacewa in action during training (SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The Pro12 table can often be misleading and although Glasgow Warriors have had their struggles this season, there is no doubt that they are a far better side than their seventh place position suggests.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen knows better than anyone else the threat that they carry and although the Blues will again be without their Ireland players, Glasgow have also been decimated by international duty.

Tonight's clash in Scotstoun is a re-fixed game from last December, and although Leinster will travel with a different squad than they would have three months ago, they will be confident of getting the right kind of result that will set them up nicely for the rest of the season.

As defending champions, Glasgow have play-off ambitions of their own and they will desperately be seeking a win in front of their home crowd and Cullen is fully aware of the scale of the challenge that lies ahead.

"You could see that even before Gregor Townsend came in there with Sean Lineen. They were making steady progress all the time," Cullen said of Glasgow's resurgence in recent years.

"I think Gregor has pushed them on again and again. You can see how that's translating into the form of the national team as well. The brand they play is good to watch. It's high tempo.

"They've got some big, strong ball carriers. They like having big backs. There's very few bigger than (Taqele) Naiyaravoro. He's a 20st, 6ft 5ins winger who can cause a lot of damage.

"(Leone) Nakarawa has obviously been well documented over the last couple of seasons in the forwards as well. Whether he plays in the second row, or plays No 8, he's just a constant danger. He sucks defenders in, gets the ball away.

"All of their players are comfortable on the ball. I listened to Gregor speak at a coaching conference last summer and the emphasis that places on skills on that off-loading game.

"They practise it all the time, so it's no coincidence that you see it all the time in their games. This season has maybe been a bit trickier to get that game going in the conditions, but the drier ground suits them, and we need to be on guard this weekend."

Like most Leinster supporters, Cullen isn't reading too much into Glasgow's league position and he still feels as if the Scots will be genuine title contenders come May.

"Hopefully their run of form starts after this week's game," he smiled. "They're sitting seventh in the table at the moment, and they have a couple of games in hand on most of the teams around them.

"So, if they pick up nine points out of those two games, they're very much in the shake-up then. You look at the table now but what's gone before it was so important to try and scramble as many points as you possibly could early on to leave yourself in a good position.

"We played Glasgow just post-World Cup, so both teams were similarly affected probably at that stage. Just dealing with that World Cup hangover, and we were lucky just to sneak that win at home.

"We prepped for this game back in November. We got to the point where the guys were just about to have their pre-match meal and were doing a bit of a walk through. Just tidying up on the last few bits of detail.

"Glasgow are a team that the dry ground will suit because they like to play the high tempo, off-loading game, and they're pretty effective at it once they get going.

"We'll see some younger players again and how they cope with playing away from home. We played Dragons with a similar group. We struggled in certain aspects of the game, so it's important we learn some of those lessons, and we need to be a hell of a lot better this week."

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