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'When a guy comes out of the Academy for his first game, he’s got to get to 50 caps somehow'

Ciaran Frawley is set for his first Leinster start following an impressive appearance off the bench last weekend.

Frawley: starts at out-half.
Frawley: starts at out-half.
Image: Byran Keane/INPHO

WITH INJURIES TO Robbie Henshaw and Rory O’Loughlin limiting their midfield options, Garry Ringrose’s return from a recent ankle complaint comes as a significant boost to Leo Cullen and his Leinster side.

Though he may yet feature for Ireland before the end of the Six Nations Championship, the former Blackrock College student returns to a Leinster line-up for the first time in almost seven weeks against the Southern Kings tomorrow night [RDS, 7.35pm kick-off].

Ringrose forms a centre partnership with club captain Isa Nacewa for the first time this season, having trained in both the provincial and international set-ups at the beginning of this week.

“Garry was with us on Monday and out in [Ireland] camp on Tuesday. The communication has been good there. Everything has been clear on what’s going on,” Cullen remarked ahead of their meeting with the South African outfit.

“He hasn’t been out that long, Garry, so he’s pretty comfortable with systems. It’s a good chance to see him and Isa together and see how they get on against a Kings side that is slowly, but surely, improving all the time.”

Cullen has gone for a blend of youth and experience for this Pro14 Conference B clash, with Ciaran Frawley set for his first start following an impressive appearance off the bench in last weekend’s win over the Scarlets.

Michael Bent and Mick Kearney will spearhead a pack that is more accustomed to life in the British & Irish Cup, but Cullen believes it is an ideal time to thrust the next generation into the limelight.

“We have a lot of players unavailable to us and a number of injuries as well. I think it’s a great window. For us, as a coaching team, I think it’s important that we demonstrate an element of bravery as well with selections at different times of the year,” the Wicklow man explained.

“We’ve maybe come under a little bit of scrutiny for some selections over the years. We want to make sure guys are pushing through. When a guy comes out of the Academy for his first game, he’s got to get to 50 caps somehow.”

All of 53 points separate Leinster from the Conference’s basement side, making them hot favourites to secure a bonus-point victory on home soil. However, Cullen is wary of the Kings’ physicality in the ruck area – which was effective for large spells of their 26-12 defeat to the Ospreys last Friday.

“They go very hard at the rucks. An area we need to get right is our attack ruck. Scarlets turned us over on a few occasions last week. That’s a big focus area for us at the moment,” Cullen acknowledged.

“They hung in well, they’re a dogged team. Lot of pace as well, but they’re aggressive around the ruck area. They caused Ospreys a lot of problems. We’ve lots of variables to deal with this time of year that the Kings don’t have to deal with. We’ve tried to prepare accordingly.”

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