Saturday 21 September 2019

'We're aware of other teams close to here ringing up young players' - Leo Cullen hits out at Leinster's rivals

 

Leinster coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leo Cullen has suggested that rival provinces are offering Leinster's young prospects unrealistic promises to coax them to switch their allegiances.

Last summer, the European champions lost Jordi Murphy to Ulster and Joey Carbery to Munster and he will be joined by scrum-half Nick McCarthy next season.

Cullen confirmed that the province wanted to keep McCarthy, but the player decided to move down the M7.

Leinster's productive academy is fuelling their current dominance on the pitch and in the Ireland squad and Cullen playfully said he hoped to one day see the province provide a full XV to the national team.

But he admitted that he is facing an increasingly difficult task in keeping the best players at the province.

"It's a challenge, yeah," he said.

"But it's a very competitive environment. That's what we want. The 'A's are playing in the final of the Celtic Cup... If you think about what's coming up we hope there's going to be a lot of players who go on to represent Ireland (in November).

"It's one of the things I'd like to see, 15 Leinster players running out in green. It would be good, wouldn't it?

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"But we still obviously have to field a team when that takes place. So we'll work away, and try and improve the players as best we can, because that's what in our control - to make sure that the place is somewhere they want to play rugby; where they're enjoying themselves and feel like they're getting better.

"Even sometimes when they're not starting or on the bench, they feel like there is a plan and a programme in place for them to improve and they enjoy the experience of being here as well. They feel like the club is taking care of them.

"So, there's other things that clubs are promising... we're aware of other teams close to here ringing up young players and selling them stories about what they are going to get somewhere else.

"We know that that's there, the club is very aware of it and what we can do about it is limited.

"We can just control trying to create a very good environment here where we think we'll make ambitious players better, try and maximise their potential and do all of those things.

"It's hard to know exactly what the future holds, players will decide to do different things and we understand and respect those decisions as well."

In Robbie Henshaw and Seán Cronin, Cullen included two players produced by rival provinces in his match-day squad for tomorrow's Champions Cup clash against Toulouse.

Ulster have six Leinster men in their 23 for today's meeting with Racing 92, while Munster have three in their squad as they take on Gloucester.

"Everyone here at the club is conscious of the fact that there are a lot of Leinster players being targeted," Cullen said.

"I'm not sure what the best way to describe it is. We talked about it in the lead-in to the Munster game a few weeks ago: how Munster had changed quite significantly.

"There was a big South African influence there, even some young guys coming into the academy, and there are a good few Leinster guys down there.

"It is something the club are definitely very conscious of.

"In many ways it's a compliment to a lot of the work that goes on behind the scenes here, whether that is at schools and club level or at the academy and sub-academy. The work that goes on is still very important."

Cullen was speaking after making one change to his team for tomorrow's game, with Joe Tomane replacing Rob Kearney in a move that sees Jordan Larmour shift to full-back.

Munster have made four changes to their team, with Niall Scannell and Keith Earls missing out through injury.

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