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Cullen: World Cup quarter-final exit won't tarnish Schmidt's legacy in Ireland

Leo Cullen was a mainstay in the Leinster team during the New Zealander’s time in charge of the province.

Leo Cullen and Joe Schmidt during a Leinster press briefing in 2013.
Leo Cullen and Joe Schmidt during a Leinster press briefing in 2013.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

LEO CULLEN DOESN’T believe the failure to reach a World Cup semi-final will tarnish the legacy of Joe Schmidt on these shores.

Cullen was a mainstay in the Leinster team during the New Zealander’s time in charge of the province – a three-season spell that garnered back-to-back Heineken Cups (2011 and 2012), a European Challenge Cup and a Pr12 title (both 2013).

Schmidt and his Irish side were aiming to avoid a repeat of the 2015 quarter-final defeat at the hands of Argentina, but the All Blacks ensured it was an anti-climactic end to his reign in Chofu on Saturday.

“It’s not going to change what he has achieved. He has achieved a huge amount in the game. Nothing is going to change that, in terms of the success he has had here [Leinster] and the success he has had with Ireland as well,” the Leinster head coach said of Schmidt, who guided Ireland to three Six Nations title – including a 2018 Grand Slam.

“I’m gutted for all of them really, if you see how much work goes into the group. He’s the most successful coach Ireland has had in terms of his win ratio and lots of big days along the way.”

Similar to four years ago, Cullen will be tasked with lifting the morale of Leinster’s international stars upon their return to provincial duty. The former lock was part of the Ireland squad in 2011 for a similarly crushing last-eight reversal to Wales and is therefore well versed in dealing with World Cup disappointment.

“From experience, New Zealand in 2011, everyone is in a different mindset. Some guys start, some on the bench, some not involved. I was not in the 23 when we lost to Wales. Everyone thought we’d beat them, but we underperformed on the day. You’re stuck in New Zealand, bloody miles away, and you’re keen to just get back and play rugby.

“You forget it’s the start of the season. It seems its been on for a while, but it’s just the start. There’s such a build up to that tournament, it’s like one season rolls into the next, but we’ll just touch base with our guys out there. See how they are and try make a plan.

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“When you have a bad day most people just want to get back on the horse, so to speak. Get up and running again. For most of the guys I’d say they’re just keen to have another game,” Cullen added.

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