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Leinster will look to 'A' games and AIL during 'different' international window

The United Rugby Championship will break for a month following this weekend’s fixtures.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

SO FAR, SO good for Leinster. Saturday’s 50-15 defeat of Scarlets made it four wins from four for the province, who have negotiated their way through those opening fixtures without ever fully hitting their stride.

Sure, they scored 50 points at the RDS over the weekend, but the Leinster backline never quite clicked, the six tries all coming courtesy of the forward pack – a stat which represents a new league record.

The squad aren’t quite where they want to be, but it’s early days.

“Some of the line breaks were being created by good attacking play where you are pushing the pass, so it’s just trying to get the right balance,” said head coach, Leo Cullen.

“It’s still very early in the season. Some guys are literally playing their first game of the season.” 

Next up it’s Glasgow on Friday, before the league takes a month off as the autumn internationals take centre stage, with Leinster not back in action until a 27 November home clash with Ulster.

That period will represent a new challenge for a squad that have traditionally used these international windows to their advantage, blooding young players without ever really missing a beat in terms of results. 

Cullen has already stressed that the format of the United Rugby Championship will mean less opportunities for some players, so with that in mind, Leinster will become more reliant on other avenues as they look to keep their younger players ticking over.

While Leinster were busy dismantling Scarlets, David Hawkshaw was kicking four penalties for Clontarf, Liam Turner was helping Dublin University to victory over Ballynahinch and Jack Dunne was with Trinity taking the next step in his recovery from an ankle injury.

“We have an ‘A’ game scheduled, so that’s one game that is there. Some fringe guys will get some minutes there,” Cullen explained.

The AIL is going to be important. A couple of guys went back and played this week. It’s really, really important. I have really enjoyed watching it (this season), I have to say. Watching some of those games when I get them sent through to me, it’s really positive.

“Seeing some of our lads playing, but the crowds at the games and all the rest as well. The standard has been good, I have been pretty impressed.

“Hopefully there is a good chunk of guys in the national squad, so they will be gone anyway.

“Then it’s just an opportunity for certain guys to refresh, recharge, liken a mini pre-season as such as well because it is a long season. Guys will get opportunities at different stages.

“It’s slightly different to what we have had in the past, but it is what it is. There will be other positives in there.”

Leinster took the field on Saturday with 13 Ireland internationals in their starting XV, with Ciarán Frawley and Ross Molony the only exceptions.

And Frawley once again displayed why he might take that next step in his career sooner rather than later.

The centre adds another layer to Leinster’s attacking play, showing a number of nice touches while also stepping in as first receiver on a number of occasions.

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ciaran-frawley-and-aaron-shingler Ciarán Frawley had another good outing against the Scarlets on Saturday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Having started his career as an out-half, the 23-year old continues to catch the eye with the number 12 on his back.

“Ciarán is improving all the time,” Cullen said. 

“He is building up his experience. Hopefully he is not a million miles away from it (Ireland squad).

“Ciarán was a little bit unlucky with a few of the injuries he had last year, which probably held him back.

“He had surgery at the end of the season and he has worked hard over the course of the off-season and pre-season.

“It’s good to see guys progressing and he’s in that bracket of younger guys. You want to see them kick on now and hopefully get an opportunity up the ranks.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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