Dave Winter/INPHO Leinster were far too good for Racing.
# Skipper
Cullen hails Ringrose's 'calm, composed' leadership after big Leinster win
The Leinster boss was pleased with how his players managed their long journey yesterday.

PERHAPS THE MOST pleasing thing of all for Leinster in a very impressive past fortnight is how they haven’t really missed the main man, Johnny Sexton.

He’s still incredibly important to both Leinster and Ireland, of course, but Leo Cullen’s side have pulled off two outstanding performances in a row now without Sexton.

First, they overcame Cian Healy’s 21st-minute red card against Ulster to blow their inter-provincial rivals away and now they have overcome a taxing series of delays en route to Le Havre yesterday to hammer Racing 92.

Their six-try 42-10 bonus-point win at Stade Océane was a convincing illustration of why so many people believe Leinster will be Champions Cup winners this season, for the first time since 2018.

With Garry Ringrose captaining again, Cullen and Stuart Lancaster’s side were far too good for a Racing team that has many threats. The Parisians really never had a look-in as Leinster scored a variety of excellent tries and limited the French side to a late consolation score.

“Credit to the players,” said Cullen post-match in Le Havre. “I just think the way they’re leading themselves at the moment, there’s a lot of players that have been around over the last number of years so they’re gaining layers of experience all the time and how they’re driving each other is the most pleasing thing.

“You’ve got to be able to deal with whatever happens on the given day. Last week it was a red card, this week it was a few issues with travel but you’ve got to be able to deal with those obstacles.

“Garry in particular as captain, he’s kept a very calm, composed head amongst some of the chaos that’s gone on around. It’s great to see him develop as a leader but he has plenty of support around him as well. To be successful in any team sport, you need plenty of leaders across the team so it’s important we keep working on that.”

Ringrose is in the form of his life and the captaincy appears to be sitting easily with him at the moment.

garry-ringrose-bursts-through-for-a-try Dave Winter / INPHO Leinster captain Garry Ringrose on his way to scoring. Dave Winter / INPHO / INPHO

He’s more assertive than ever in both his play and his dealings with the match officials. Cullen sees him as possible successor to Sexton as the permanent Leinster skipper, and maybe even the same with Ireland.

“Definitely, yeah,” said Cullen. “You see what he’s doing at the moment with Leinster but he has plenty of support around him.

“Ross [Byrne] at 10, James Ryan in terms of leading the forwards as such, he was excellent out there and during the course of the week. The way the game is now, you can’t rely on one person and it’s different than the past.” 

Leinster had a long, drawn-out day getting to Le Havre on Friday, with their journey taking more than 16 hours in the end.

But Cullen was delighted that his players never let frustration set in.

“It was one of those tests you have to come through sometimes,” said the Leinster boss.

“It was great connection time, lots of time together. There were a lot of the families there, a lot of the parents were on that flight which was brilliant, so you can see there were a lot of proud parents in the crowd today and the supporters that were on that flight as well. Plenty of frustrations for supporters that got stuck in Dublin Airport but hopefully they enjoyed watching the game.

“From the players’ point of view, they’re proud about the team so they want to represent those people. It’s not just about themselves, it’s a wider picture. But it’s Round 1, so there’s a long way to go and a very short turnaround into this week. The big thing is that we recover and hopefully we get back a lot quicker than it took to get here!”

Next up is the visit of Gloucester to the RDS next Friday. No one will be backing against the formidable Leinster side.

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