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'I'm not worried about what we don't have - we have so much faith in the players'

Leinster are without several key players for their clash against Toulouse, but Leo Cullen is not concerned.
Jan 11th 2019, 7:31 PM 6,909 6

LEINSTER WILL BE without a host of frontline internationals for the biggest game of their season, but Leo Cullen has downplayed the significance of the province’s untimely injury crisis.

In a further setback ahead of Saturday’s visit of Toulouse, Rob Kearney and Dan Leavy both sustained injuries in training during the week, and join Johnny Sexton, Devin Toner and Robbie Henshaw on the absent list.

Leo Cullen Cullen speaking at Friday's press conference. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The injuries have forced Cullen’s selection hand for the crucial Pool 1 encounter at the RDS, with the defending European champions stripped of key personnel and experience at such an important juncture in the season.

With Kearney sidelined with a quad injury, Jordan Larmour reverts to fullback and is joined in the back three by Adam Byrne and Dave Kearney, while Ross Byrne deputises for Sexton at out-half.

The unavailability of Toner and Leavy may not be as keenly felt given Scott Fardy and Josh van der Flier slot in as able replacements, but it all means Leinster are far from full strength, while their bench lacks its usual firepower.

Cullen, however, is not overly concerned ahead of what has effectively become a pool decider, with his entire starting XV boasting international credentials, while 20 of the matchday 23 are products of the Leinster system.

It will be the sternest test of Leinster’s unrivalled strength in depth as they look to inflict a first defeat of the campaign on Toulouse, who travel to Dublin with all of their big guns in tow.

“I’m not someone who is worried about what I don’t have,” Cullen said at this afternoon’s pre-match press conference.

“We have so much faith in the players and the experience and depth we’ve built over the past few seasons. It’s important, we want to have that competition and it’s very, very strong across the squad.

“It doesn’t particularly worry me. I think we’ve got a good group, there’s a lot of experience there if you look at the 1-15, they’re all internationals. There’s 20 of the 23 that have come through the Leinster academy system and they’ve got to get the experience at some stage.

There’s no magic fix to get guys to 100 caps, you’ve got to get picked 100 times. Guys are maturing all the time and there’s a tonne of experience in our team and in our squad.

“We’ve full confidence in the guys who are going to represent the group in what is a massive game for the club.”

Trailing Toulouse by two points heading into the final two rounds of pool action, Leinster go into Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off in the knowledge an 12th straight home win in Europe would put them in pole position for a home quarter-final.

Garry Ringrose Garry Ringrose and Adam Byrne start for Leinster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

But the loss of so many international players through injury heightens the task, with the French outfit playing some of the best attacking rugby in the competition this term.

The visitors have made five changes and a couple of positional switches for the round five clash from the side that beat Leinster by a single point back in October. 

Maxime Medard, who scored two tries that day, including the match-winning intercept score, shifts to the number 15 jersey from the wing, with the competition’s leading points scorer Thomas Ramos moving to out-half.

All Black Jerome Kaino is named at number eight after missing the reverse fixture through suspension, while Australian Richie Arnold is named in the second row of a powerful and dynamic pack.

“It’s an unbelievably exciting match-up,” Cullen continued. “They’re a team that we have so much respect for. For us we have been very fixated on this game for a while.

“I know we’ve had three big inter-pros over the course of the Christmas period but this is the one that is, not at the back of our mind, because it’s closer to the front of our minds.

“It’s an unbelievable challenge. We’ve got full confidence in them [the players] and we’re excited about what they can deliver on the day tomorrow. It’s a great challenge.”

With a capacity crowd of over 18,000 set to descend on the RDS, Cullen has urged supporters to get behind Leinster from early in the day as the province bid to earn the result they need. 

“Get up early, get in early,” he smiled. “Every little bit matters, definitely. The atmosphere over the course of the Christmas games has been fantastic here. Hopefully, we’ll have another big day tomorrow.

“Yeah, it’s an early start, so it’s important that we’re into it nice and early. We were a bit slow out of the blocks in the round two game.

“The start and how we manage the start of the game, nice and controlled, so we’re not putting extra pressure on ourselves. The crowd will play their part for sure.” 

Ahead of a huge weekend of Heineken Champions Cup action, Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey assess the provinces’ chances of putting a foot in the last eight:


Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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