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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 25 September, 2018
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'A reality check' for Leinster as Cullen switches the focus to two-time European champions

The province suffered just their fourth defeat of the season to the Ospreys on Saturday night.

Leinster now face into a big week with Saracens to come on Easter Sunday.
Leinster now face into a big week with Saracens to come on Easter Sunday.
Image: Alex Davidson/INPHO

MORE SILVERWARE MAY be uppermost in the minds of Leinster fans after watching Ireland win the Grand Slam, but Leo Cullen isn’t going to count his chickens as the business end of the season comes sharply into focus.

A Guinness Pro14 and Champions Cup double is still on the cards for Leinster, but the physical reminder dished out by Alun Wyn Jones’ Ospreys team in their 32-18 victory over the Conference B leaders was proof enough for Cullen that his squad needs to refocus this week ahead of the Champions Cup quarter-final clash with reigning champions Saracens.

“It was a bit of a reality check for some of our guys because it was a tough, physical contest. We came off second best in too many of those contact areas,” said Cullen.

“It definitely gave us a good grounding ahead of next week and showed us the level we need to get to. We saw Ospreys play against Saracens in the Champions Cup in the drawn game at the Liberty and we know Saracens are going to be another physical team.

“We watched a little bit of their game against Quins and it is going to be a great challenge for our players to get back to that level. There is a hell of a lot at stake next week.

“Any thoughts of a league and cup double are miles away. Where we are at the moment is that this week we are taking on the two-time champions of Europe.

“It is hard to look past that at the moment. At least we have an eight day lead into that game and it is important for the guys to recover well and prepare well for next week because it is an unbelievable challenge for us.

Leo Cullen Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

“It sounds as though it will be a great crowd at the Aviva and we will certainly need every little bit we can get out of them against a team like the Saracens. There is a real focus in the group and the players will re-set their goals this week and assess what they want to get out of the season — it is a big week for us.”

Fergus McFadden and Noel Reid will have to undergo the back to play protocols after leaving the field with head knocks in the first quarter at the Liberty Stadium, while Dave Kearney will be treated for a left shoulder injury that restricted his game time to a mere 11 minutes in an extremely physical tussle against the Welsh region.

Victory would have secured qualification for the Pro14 play-offs with three games to play for Cullen’s men, but there shouldn’t be any problem in them holding onto their three-point lead at the top of Conference B with home games against the Italian duo, Benetton Rugby and Zebre, followed by a trip to Galway to meet Connacht.

“We would have liked to have pushed on a bit after seeing the Scarlets lose to Munster and create a bit more of a gap, because it is getting very tight at the top. There is a huge amount to play for before the end of the season and it is going to be a busy time for our medical department,” admitted Cullen.

“There were a few head knocks and we will look to get them back into things via the graduated return to play policy. Dave Kearney took a bang to his shoulder and was in a degree of discomfort, so we will have to see how he comes through.”

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