Wednesday 19 June 2019

Leo Cullen apologises for Rangers remarks as Sexton glimpses glory

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

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Leinster coach Leo Cullen began his trip to Glasgow on the back foot as he apologised for remarks he made associating this evening's Guinness PRO14 final opponents and Rangers, but he's hoping to leave the Scottish city on a high.

The former second-row inadvertently found himself at the centre of an Old Firm media storm this week when he glibly remarked that "Glasgow rugby players all support Rangers I've been told" and called for Celtic fans to come out and support the Irish province at Parkhead.

The comments were not received well in Scotland and Cullen was blasted by Lisbon Lion Jim Craig, but yesterday he attempted to draw a line under his diplomatic incident by opening his pre-match press conference with an apology.

"After the game last week, our semi-final, I made a comment that seemed to attract plenty of attention," he said.

"Just so that we're all aware, it was a throwaway remark, it was made in jest and I didn't mean to offend anyone. For any individuals that I did offend, I apologise to them."

Cullen yesterday recalled Johnny Sexton, Scott Fardy and Rob Kearney to his team, but Seán O'Brien has not recovered from a hip issue and, thus, has played his final game a blue jersey.

With Joe Schmidt naming his team on Monday or Tuesday as Ireland's World Cup pre-season gets under way in three weeks' time, it was somewhat worrying to hear Cullen say an update on O'Brien's condition will be provided next week.

The coach said he remains hopeful a deal can be agreed to keep Kearney at his home province.

But for all of the outside noise, Leinster's focus is purely on delivering back-to-back league titles with victory.

And captain Johnny Sexton said the special resonance of Celtic Park would help inspire his team.

"It's up there for us," he said. "There's a big affiliation for Celtic and Ireland, and a lot of us would have grown watching games here and dreaming to play here, and it's great to get the chance to do it. Once in a lifetime, I think."

Sexton wants his side to learn the lessons of their Champions Cup final defeat to Saracens a fortnight ago.

"There was so many learnings from the game that we took, we'd love to go back and play the game again," he said.

"The five minutes before half-time, the ten minutes after, you'd love to have it back, take a couple of opportunities and maybe take a couple of different decisions, but you don't get that chance.

"But we do have another final tomorrow and we spoke last week about making sure we put in the best performance to get us to another final so we could try and right the wrongs from the Saracens game, but it came down to some small margins and then some big decisions.

"I'm sure tomorrow will be the same, so we just have to make sure that we are on the right side of those decisions and we take our chances."

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: Dublin hurlers come of age, who will stand up for Offaly and Anthony Cunningham's unique record

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport