Saturday 21 September 2019

Leo Cullen: No disrespect to the other fixtures, but there's just something different about Leinster-Munster


Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leo Cullen believes that Munster will go into this afternoon's (2.0) mouth-watering clash with an advantage over his Leinster side based on their "continuity" in recent weeks.

That is despite Rassie Erasmus springing a surprise selection in his back-line as the Munster director of rugby included three out-halves in his starting XV.

Cullen insists that Leinster's game-plan will not change based on the left-field section but he was adamant that their old foes go into the Aviva showdown with an extra edge.

"They probably have the advantage because they've probably had more continuity over the course of the last four or five weeks, because they've trained together, whereas we've had three weeks, reasonably disjointed," Cullen said.

"But this week's been better so we're just looking to have a better level of performance than we had last week, and next week we'll look to get better again and the following week the same.

"What are we looking for this week? It's the intent. There are going to be very motivated players out there so we just need to make sure we're focused on our bits.

"We know the bits that if we get right, we'll be a hard team to beat. So we just need to be focused on those."

Robbie Henshaw will make his first appearance of the season after he required surgery for the pectoral injury he suffered on the Lions tour. Sean O'Brien misses out due to a calf problem picked up last week.

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Erasmus has shown faith in Ian Keatley at out-half, with Tyler Bleyendaal switching to inside centre and JJ Hanrahan getting the nod at full-back.

More than 45,000 tickets have been sold for the eagerly-awaited derby and despite some concerns that the rivalry has waned in recent years, Cullen certainly isn't in agreement.

"It's great, you look across the match-ups, that's what it's about," Cullen maintained.

"I think there were always those match-ups but it has captured the public's attention and has been taken to a new level.

"The game has changed completely - the scrutiny on players, what's allowed in the game. That's nothing to do with Leinster and Munster, there are contacts in different ways.

"Rucking is not a part of the game any more, so there's little things like that that people have as perceptions in their mind.

"If you wind the clock back 20 years, and then prior to 20 years from that, the game is different again.

"So the hits are... it's a different type of hit. Jeepers, but the hits and collisions... there are still big contacts in the game, and it has everything good about the sport.

"But the game is different to what it was five years ago, in terms of how it's officiated, what is allowed and what's not allowed, which is good because certain areas of the game need to be tidied up as well.

"There's definitely a spike in everything that's going on around the place and traditionally that has served both teams very, very well.

"There is no replicating it. It just doesn't happen with other fixtures in the league, no disrespect to all the other ones. There is just something different about it."

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