Thinus Maritz/INPHO Josh Murphy impressed for Leinster.
coming of age

Cullen: Mission accomplished by young side in South Africa

The Leinster coach praised the performances of the South African sides in the inaugural United Rugby Championship.

LEINSTER COACH LEO Cullen has lauded his young charges after they claimed two valuable log points on a challenging two-match tour to South Africa.

Cullen was all smiles when he addressed the local media following Leinster’s 20-13 loss to the Stormers on Saturday.

Leinster have suffered two defeats in as many weeks, but have done enough to secure first place in the United Rugby Championship standings – and ultimately home

advantage in the coming playoffs.

Their best players – who were rested for the tour to South Africa – are back in Ireland preparing for the Champions Cup quarter-final against Leicester Tigers next week.

While a young and experienced Leinster side didn’t win a match on tour, they certainly contributed to the overall campaign. Cullen said that recent selection decisions, results and performances must be viewed in that context.

“I guess it is a case of mission accomplished, if you look at it like that,” Cullen told The42.

“I’m not someone who likes to see teams kicking the ball out at the final whistle [when they’re still in a position to avoid a loss]. But that’s professional rugby. You have to do what you need to do with the bigger picture in mind.

“We came into this tour with the intent to win two games. We were frustrated with our performance against the Sharks, and there were moments when our composure let us down against the Stormers.

“However, we have always been aiming for that No 1 seed [in the United Rugby Championship] so to get a couple of losing bonus points is a case of job done.”

Stormers coach John Dobson highlighted Leinster’s impressive depth. The Irish giants sent a second-string side to Cape Town Stadium, and nearly beat the form South African team.

“Ospreys coach Toby Booth told me that the toughest side to face is Leinster, and that the second-toughest side to face is Leinster ‘B’,” Dobson quipped. “They pushed us hard tonight.”

Cullen believes that the young players responded to the challenge in remarkable fashion.

“We’re very pleased with the effort,” he said.”We made the decision to back these young players, some of whom are out of the academy, and overall they acquitted themselves well.

“The Sharks and Stormers had plenty of Springboks at their disposal. Both of those teams put us under pressure and exposed us in certain areas. Our players have a lot to learn, but they will be better for this experience.”

Cullen praised the performances of the South African sides in the inaugural United Rugby Championship, as well as the decision to welcome the four franchises to the European fold.

“It’s a shot in the arm, to have these South African teams in the tournament. They’re just going to get stronger and stronger, and hopefully we will have some great battles with them over the coming years.

“I’ve been watching a lot of university rugby on TV over the past two weeks. There’s a lot of talent and depth in the lower leagues, and the future of South African rugby looks bright.”

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