Monday 23 September 2019

'We'll have to be a hell of a lot better going into the game against Munster away' - Leo Cullen

Leo Cullen. SPORTSFILE
Leo Cullen. SPORTSFILE
‘There’s definitely a spike in the interpro games,’ says Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

And so Leinster close out the year in anticipation of yet another notable victory as they travel down the road to Thomond Park this weekend.

Yet curiously, despite a 12 months which saw the resurgent club regain temporarily ceded higher ground, they almost ended the period immersed in sombre reflection at potentially a second stunning set-back during that time.

Beyond their feverish support, the historic first ever home defeat to Treviso just days before their double success would barely have registered with the wider sporting public. It stung, though, particularly for those within the all-conquering squad.

Similarly, while defeat to Connacht may have only represented the merest speed bump en route to what seems an inevitable home draw in the Guinness PRO 14 knockouts, another historic reverse would not have aided the Christmas Day digestive systems of the coaching staff.

Deficit

Nevertheless, despite a formidable deficit against Andy Friend’s exuberant side, Leinster, as they have managed to do for much of the past 18 months, managed to find a way.

Not that they would have been entirely gleeful throughout the journey, more relieved that the final destination was safely breached.

Having seen his young guns make hay against Welsh sides in the pre-European league tests, Connacht provided a much sterner examination of their resources and for a long time, Leinster didn’t have the answers.

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“You look backs at Ospreys, you look back at Dragons,” reflects Cullen of the two stunning bonus-point wins in the league that preceded this festive interprovincial period.

“We started both those games really, really well. We were on top. We were able to build. We’ve more and more confidence whereas last weekend was a complete flip.

“We don’t start great. Connacht bust us, they get a try early. We strike back. They hit us with two more tries in the first half.

“Then, we have to try and chase a game, get a little jittery up until it looks like the game is over. 

“Then, we actually start to click into gear.

“It is pleasing they are able to dig it out. But, there is a pretty big ‘but’ in there. We’ll have to be a hell of a lot better going into the game against Munster away this weekend.

“Certainly, Ulster looked very strong on Friday against Munster for the week after when we will have to play them.

“And then we’re back into Europe after that. So we know there’s plenty to work on.”

As disappointments go, everything is relative, of course. Leinster bagged the win and Cullen was sanguine when pressed as to the difficulties encountered by some the fringe men who had so impressed in those Welsh wipeouts.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to say. We’ll pull apart the game like we always would. I think the players are working incredibly hard at the moment.

“Sometimes, when the opportunity comes, there’s a lot of nerves and anxiety, and there’s pressure. The Ospreys game and the Dragons game, they’re all big games.

“But there’s definitely a spike in the interpro games, so it’s a slightly different challenge for players. I think it’s a positive step for a lot of our guys to see that.

“Some guys handle it differently. Some guys went well and other guys there’s going to be things that they need to get better at.”

“It’s getting the experience, adding all the time. There’s a hell of a lot of players there who haven’t had a huge amount of top-end exposure, so it’s just another step in their development.”

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