Cullen close to completing Covid isolation as Leinster return to training

The head coach hopes Leinster will face Ulster on New Year’s Day in Belfast.

Leo Cullen was among Leinster's positive Covid cases.
Leo Cullen was among Leinster's positive Covid cases.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

LEINSTER HAVE RESUMED training today as they aim to fulfill Saturday’s scheduled United Rugby Championship meeting with Ulster in Belfast.

Leinster took a collective break from training last week as they looked to stop the spread of Covid-19 among their squad.

There are still many Leinster players and staff – including head coach Leo Cullen – isolating after recent positive Covid test results, but a “good chunk” of the squad resumed training today under senior coach Stuart Lancaster.

Cullen is due to complete his isolation period before the clash with Ulster on New Year’s Day [KO 7.35pm, TG4/URC TV] and he is hopeful that the game will go ahead as planned.

Leinster’s recent Covid outbreak resulted in the cancellation of their Champions Cup visit to Montpellier two weekends ago, as well as the postponement of their St Stephen’s Day trip to Munster last weekend.

While Cullen was not willing to reveal the number of players and staff who have tested positive for Covid in recent weeks, he said it has been a hugely challenging time for the province, who have also been hit by close contacts of positive cases having to isolate.

However, he still hopes Leinster will be in position to field a good team this weekend against Ulster.

“Omicron is very, very different to what we experienced before,” said Cullen this afternoon. “We have had a number of players and staff, myself included, who have picked up Omicron and have had different periods of isolation.

“Even now, we have guys that are being pinged as close contacts to various different people. I’m sure you’re all experiencing that yourselves to some degree anyway.

“When those take place and you’re alerted, it’s not just yourself but also all the people you’ve been in contact with.

“We’ve had another round of testing and because the testing system… we’re experiencing the same challenges that everyone else is in terms of the delay in getting some of the results back, so they’re coming back in dribs and drabs.

“The picture is… it’s not amazing if you were to say this would be the situation we’re in a number of weeks ago. But we’re slowly but surely getting through it now.”

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Cullen outlined how the festive period, which has naturally involved Leinster players and staff being among big groups of family, has posed an additional challenge.

The Leinster boss himself is currently in isolation after recently testing positive, meaning he had Christmas dinner apart from his family.

“I don’t want to trivialise this in any way but from my own personal experience having come through it now, I was OK,” said Cullen of his Covid experience.

“Very, very mild symptoms to the point where only the fact that you’re testing, I wouldn’t have really known is the honest answer.

“I’ll be out later in the week, I’ll be out before the game. I’m pushing. I’ve been antigen negative for the last three days. My symptoms were incredibly mild, incredibly mild, which is a good thing I guess.”

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