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Cullen tells Keenan to be ready in case of emergency call from Lions

The Leinster full-back scored a hat-trick in Leinster’s 50-21 win over Connacht on Saturday.

Keenan collects his man of the match award.
Keenan collects his man of the match award.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

LEO CULLEN, LEINSTER’S head coach, has advised Hugo Keenan to maintain his form in case he gets an emergency phone call from Warren Gatland.

The Leinster and Ireland full-back is in the form of his life, and while it was no great surprise that he missed out on Warren Gatland’s squad, Cullen is fully aware how events can quickly change in rugby.

Way back in 1997, Paul Wallace wasn’t named in the original 35-man Lions squad but ended up as a test match tighthead. Similarly, Rob Kearney was regarded as little more than a back-up to Lee Byrne in 2009 before an injury to the Welshman afforded Kearney the chance to reach a career highlight.

Now the full-back making strides in blue and green is Keenan – with Cullen suggesting he may still get to fit on a red one.

“Yeah he’s been excellent this season,” said Cullen of Keenan, scorer of a hat-trick in Saturday’s win over Connacht. “He’s been sort of a mainstay of the Irish team really after only making his debut in the autumn.

“For a lot of our players who are in that situation where they’ve played a lot of international rugby over the course of this season and missed out on (Lions) selection, they just need to keep playing well.

“Whatever happens they need to be in a situation where if a full-back goes down, or whatever position goes down, it’s like well who’s next up on the roster? And a conversation takes place: okay what did Hugo Keenan do last week? He scored a hat-trick of tries!

“That’s the challenging thing for selectors in picking a Lions squad because they’re basing (opinions) on what length of time? This season? The last two/three seasons? The previous tour? There are lots of different variables. Lots of things feed into that.

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“But what can the players control at the moment? They need to make sure they’re playing well. So we’ve another game, against Ulster, and hopefully lots of guys can put their hands up. It would be amazing to think all 37 players who were selected during the week will be the 37 getting on the plane. There are so many games to be played between now and take off.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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