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Dublin: 12°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Munster always play with real intensity in Thomond – Leo Cullen

The Leinster lock will miss the game through injury but will be a keen spectator.

The Leinster captain won't play any part at Thomond.
The Leinster captain won't play any part at Thomond.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

LEINSTER CAPTAIN LEO Cullen will be a particularly agitated spectator as his side take on Munster tomorrow evening.

The 35-year-old is recovering from surgery he underwent on an Achilles injury last month, meaning Devin Toner and one of Mike McCarthy or Quinn Roux are likely to start in the second row. Cullen was part of Leinster’s most recent win in Thomond Park, a 22-16 victory in April, but will be restricted to watching the latest derby.

Leinster have enjoyed a dominant phase against Munster in the last two seasons, winning all four fixtures. In fact, the last time Munster beat their old rivals was in the 2011 Magners League final, with a team that included Ronan O’Gara, David Wallace, Marcus Horan and John Hayes.

Many of those faces have since departed, but Cullen remains firmly on the scene, even if he is out of action at the moment. Regardless of the recent success Leinster have enjoyed over their southern neighbours, the experienced lock maintains that winning in Limerick is a difficult task.

“All the lads are very excited about the challenge, not just this week but the next three weeks. It’s going to be a very, very tough challenge. Munster always play with a real intensity down in Thomond. I’ll be on the sideline watching unfortunately, but I’ll be watching with interest.”

The return of Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip was a big boost for Leinster last weekend against the Cardiff Blues, and Cullen was impressed with their impact. The Wicklow native is reassured at the presence of such experienced heads as he misses out.

“It’s great when you get quality players like that back into the mix. There’s always a bit of difficulty for us at the start of the season and the weeks tick on by quickly. But it was great to see some of the lads perform at the weekend and set such a high standard in what was essentially their first game.

“Usually you have pre-season games to blow out the cobwebs, so for them to produce those levels of performance was very encouraging.”

Leinster are set to announce their starting XV later today, and with Rob Penney putting out a strong selection, Matt O’Connor will need the likes of O’Driscoll and Heaslip to show more of that same form. Cullen will be living every moment of the game from the stand.

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Murray Kinsella

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