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Three new European caps for Leinster as conveyor belt continues to produce

While there is vast experience in Leo Cullen’s squad, he was pleased to see three Champions Cup debuts.

THE MANNER OF victory was emphatic for Leinster after Dylan Hartley’s red card on Friday night, and clearly the collective performance that brought five tries was the most satisfying aspect of the 37-10 victory in Franklin’s Gardens.

Leinster’s  Rory O’Loughlin scores a try Rory O'Loughlin scored a try after coming off the bench. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

But Leo Cullen was also extremely pleased to hand out three European debuts on a good night for the province, with Adam Byrne starting on the right wing and Ross Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin both coming off the bench.

O’Loughlin scored a try as he continued his excellent form and though the two Byrnes had some tricky moments, they also both showed glimpses of the talent that has brought them to this point.

The conveyer belt in Leinster continues to roll, all across the squad. Consider that Dan Leavy – one of the outstanding back rows in Ireland this season – was not even part of the matchday 23.

Youngsters Garry Ringrose, Josh van der Flier and Joey Carbery were part of the starting XV and the energy of the province’s youth is a compelling part of their drive to secure a Champions Cup quarter-final.

A lot of the young lads are coming through,” said tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong, just 24 himself, on Friday night.

“I was only sitting down on the bus on the way to the hotel last night and I was with a group where I was the oldest one in it. I was like, ‘Jesus!’

“There’s young lads coming through and adding real energy. There’s a lot of experience in the group as well and they’re helping out the young lads too.”

Head coach Leo Cullen echoed the sentiment when acknowledging Byrne, O’Loughlin and Byrne.

Joey Carbery oh the field after the game Joey Carbery left Franklin's Gardens on crutches. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Getting three new caps in Europe is great experience for those younger guys. They’re pushing some of the older fellas on.”

While a big win away from home in these back-to-back European ties would normally lead to a widespread confidence of a second win the following weekend, Leinster have learned a lesson in that regard in recent years.

In 2013, they travelled to Northampton and hammered the Saints 40-7. A week later, they lost 18-9 in Dublin.

“It’s something we’re very, very conscious of,” said Cullen. “Northampton are a proud club, so they will come back strong. Kieran Brookes comes back into the mix [after suspension]. I thought our scrum was very strong today but he’s an international tighthead coming back in.


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“Paul Hill is an international tighthead but he’s young, he’s 21. Kieran Brookes gives a lot more presence.

“Calum Clark is another guy who comes back into the mix, back from a suspension as well. He played in that game in the Aviva, where he’s strong on the ground. I thought [Teimana] Harrison when he came on [on Friday] was strong in the contact as well.

“We’re going to expect a physical challenge next week so we need to make sure we have our heads on. The game was in the balance there for a long time.”

It’s debatable whether Northampton will improve on Friday night’s performance, given the turmoil they are in at present.

Leinster’s  Ross Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin Ross Byrne and O'Loughlin collide as they make a tackle. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Hartley’s red card is the latest setback for the club, while the report on the Goerge North concussion incident is expected in the coming days. That is likely to cause even more strife for the Premiership outfit.

Leinster are top of Pool 4 after three rounds of fixtures, their 11 points meaning they stay ahead of Montpellier, who are on 10.

A win in Dublin on Saturday would leave Leinster in prime position to go on and secure their quarter-final spot, though Cullen won’t be letting his men get any ideas.

Nonetheless, with youthful energy continuing to push through and the returning Ireland internationals having shone on Friday night, there’s a positive vibe around Leinster right now.

“I just think they’re working hard in training and showing positive characteristics all the time,” said Cullen. “We’ll try and reward the guys who are playing well and I think that creates a better environment for everybody.”

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Murray Kinsella

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