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Cullen bidding to become first man to lift European Cup as both player and coach

‘They’re a great bunch to work with at the moment, they were a great bunch to play with too.’

Cullen led Leinster to European success in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Cullen led Leinster to European success in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Image: Inpho

JOHNNY SEXTON HAILED the leadership of Leo Cullen in helping Leinster back to the Champions Cup final, with the head coach bidding to make his own piece of history in next month’s decider in Bilbao.

After captaining the province to their three previous European crowns in 2009, 2011 and 2012, the former second row can become the first man to win the competition as both a player and coach.

Racing’s joint head coach, Laurent Travers, who leads his side into today’s semi-final against Munster, can also do the same having captured the trophy with Brive back in 1997.

Cullen and Stuart Lancaster have overseen the revival of a rugby dynasty at Leinster and the team’s exciting progression, led by a new wave, has stepped up a gear this season as the unrelenting pursuit of a fourth star gathers pace.

“He’s had a great impact from when he came back from Leicester as a player to captain us to three trophies and now leading the way at the top,” Sexton said post-match yesterday.

“The organisation relies on top down, the leadership from above, and a big decision to bring in Stuart as well and share the workload. Stuart has been immense as well so big credit to all those coaches. This week especially brilliant and the preparation that went in has been outstanding.”

As for Cullen, what’s the difference between the two roles?

“Physically, it’s a bit easier coaching, mentally it’s a bit easier playing,” he laughed.

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“They’re world’s apart really, they’re a great bunch to work with at the moment, they were a great bunch to play with too. Now it’s all about concentrating on preparing as best we can and put a plan together based on what we see.

“It’s a great challenge, a final in Spain, it will be a special day, we hope, we just need to give ourselves the best chance now. We’ve had two great days in the Aviva , it’s a very different challenge to go away to Spain. We’ll make sure we have a good plan and prepare the players as best we can.”

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Ryan Bailey

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