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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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Leo Cullen to take over as Leinster forwards coach

The province’s captain is understood to have agreed a move into the coaching set-up next season.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

LEO CULLEN IS set to assume the role of forwards coach at Leinster from next season, with head coach Matt O’Connor confirming the move.

The 35-year-old is expected to retire from playing at the end of the current campaign in order to take up his first senior level coaching role in rugby.

Jono Gibbes, who is currently in charge of the forwards at the province, has already agreed terms with Top 14 side Clermont for next season, meaning Leinster have been working to fill the position. While Cullen’s relative lack of coaching experience is a negative, the Wicklow native appears to have many of the other attributes required to succeed.

Indeed, it could prove to be a shrewd move on the province’s part to retain the experienced lock. Cullen has been instrumental in building the culture and ethos that has allowed Leinster to enjoy such success in recent years, with his stint at the Leicester Tigers understood to have been vital in building his appreciation of such elements.

Speaking to 98FM, Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor said he is excited about the move.

Leo’s been an unbelievable leader for the organisation on and off the field. I think given that Jono is moving off to Clermont, it was the natural progression for Leo. He’s got all that knowledge, he understands what’s required at the very top level and I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

“You don’t have to talk to people for too long to understand whether they’ll be able to do it or not. Leo’s demonstrated that he’s certainly got the knowledge. When you sit down and have the conversation with him, the genuine excitement and student of the game that he is, you know he will thrive in the environment.

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With this move into the coaching side of rugby, Cullen may of course become a candidate for head coaching jobs in the future. O’Connor believes he could do a good job in that role too.

“Yeah, potentially. It’s a little bit hard to ascertain at this stage. He’s certainly a leader and he’s got vast rugby knowledge and experience. I wouldn’t doubt that he’d be a very good head coach, but it’s just about how the thing twists and turns, how long he wants to be in the game.”

Speaking earlier this season, teammate Devin Toner revealed that Cullen already operates in something of a player/coaching capacity with Leinster.

“The way Leo goes about his business, he’s kind of like a coach anyway with the line-outs he runs.”

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Murray Kinsella

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