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'It's a very challenging period' - Leo Cullen confirms he was among positive Leinster Covid cases

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Leinster coach Leo Cullen has confirmed that he has been one of the group of Leinster players and staff who tested positive for Covid-19.

However, he revealed that his symptoms were very mild as his squad remain optimistic that after a fortnight of inactivity they can play Ulster this weekend.

And he is also pleading with European officials for “common sense” as the province continue to seek a potential re-fixture of their controversially cancelled Champions Cup clash with Montpellier.

"They're looking OK,” he said of his squad’s preparations for the trip to Ulster.

“There's a lot of uncertainty everywhere at the moment. It's a very, very challenging period for sport in general, you see so many games being postponed or cancelled.

"Omicron is very, very different to what we experienced before. We have had a number of players and staff, myself included, who have picked up Omicron and have had different periods of isolation.

"That's been a challenge, particularly at this time of year. There's lots of chat around our Montpellier game in Europe and some of the things that took place that week - I'm happy to discuss all of that - then into Munster the following week.

"That, for me, was always going to be the very, very tricky week. The game is on St Stephen's Day, the 26th, and we're testing roughly 100 people most weeks and have had a good chunk of people test positive.

“Some of those people have come through the 10 days already so they're back in action and in theory they're good to go now.

'With the social gatherings that take place for most people on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, in particular, and if you think even if we have a group that's due to go to Limerick on the 26th of roughly 40 people, that game for me was always going to be a huge challenge because of the amount of contacts.

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"Even now, we have guys that are being pinged as close contacts to various different people. I'm sure you're all experiencing that yourselves to some degree anyway. When those take place and you're alerted, it's not just yourself but also all the people you've been in contact with, so for me that game was always going to be quite tricky.

“So we've had another round of testing and because the testing system, everyone is reading all the headlines.

“We're experiencing the same challenges that everyone else is in terms of the delay in getting some of the results back, so they're coming back in dribs and drabs.

"I don't want to trivialise this in any way but from my own personal experience having come through it now, I was ok. Very, very mild symptoms to the point where only the fact that you're testing, I wouldn't have really known is the honest answer.

"But it creates challenges for people more around family and what you can do in terms of decision-making. It's not even in terms of work, it's from a family point of view.

“As I know because my wife and children were heading down the country, separate to me, and they were isolating and tested and were thankfully negative but I've been isolating from them over the last few days.

"Everyone has had their challenges is the reality. We've had a good chunk of cases, I'm not going to go into specifics on numbers, we can maybe at some point in the future but obviously because we're testing even today and I can't tell you the full results of those tests because the guys that haven't got their results back yet, aren't allowed to come in yet.

"But hopefully we'll have a good chunk of players that have either tested positive previously and are back training now or have tested negative already this morning and are going to rejoin the squad.

"It's a very challenging period of how you best go about managing the situation, none of us have been through this before. It's hard to look at any data from elsewhere because nobody has any.

“We have to try and make smart decisions for the group and crack on as best we possibly can."

While URC games may be re-scheduled – Leinster’s next home game against the Lions has also been postponed – Cullen hopes that European chiefs may alter their stance after their medical advisors advised the game could not go ahead, with the regulations then decreeing a 28-0 win for Montpellier.

A raft of other games on the same weekend were subsequently postponed on a different basis, after French travel restrictions were introduced between that country and the UK, and EPCR hope to repay those earlier next year in what may now be a re-formatted competition.

Cullen believes his side deserve to have the same opportunity.

"A lot of our players had seen the Munster situation and the other URC teams getting stuck in South Africa. Going to France, the players had to test a form about being spot tested basically in France and if you were to show a positive test, they would stay there for 10 days and isolate so there was a lot of concern about getting stuck in France.

"Then you hear the following day as it played out, we did our team run and shifted our flight to the Friday, etc. The message for us was to crack on with the group we had and that's obviously what we did. Then on the Thursday, when the game gets called, that's slightly before - you're down to hours now - where again things are changing and there's a whole block of games now getting rearranged.

"You hope that common sense will prevail and that people who have had games cancelled get an opportunity to play them. The good thing is that there are still seven weekends of European action left, so how Europe goes about reconfiguring the tournament, we'll wait and see.

"They're working away in the background, I believe, but you'd hope that some level of common sense will prevail and everyone gets a fair crack at trying to play the games because at the end of the day, Covid is going to hit everyone at various different stages, particularly with this variant.

“You see across the Top 14, URC, Premiership - everyone is having games not being played over the course of the last few weekends. It really just depends when it hits, rather than if it hits. Everyone is going to be affected at some point, so that would be the hope."


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