Ryan Byrne/INPHO
step up

Cullen keen to see Leinster impose attack on Saints

Last time out in Lyon was too close for comfort.

NINE GAMES DOWN, Leo Cullen’s Leinster can stretch their 100% winning record to a 10th game if they can account for Northampton Saints tomorrow.

For the most part, that run has been made up of  high-tempo, skill-reliant and expansive style fuelled by their astoundingly rich depth of resources of young talent.

Yet as they travel to take on the Premiership leaders and a third win on the trot in Europe, they do so with a team that has made a hallmark more in graft than grace through their two opening wins.

If they make it three on the trot in Europe and 10 for the season as a whole, who the hell’s going to complain if the aesthetics bear a closer resemblance to the slug-fest in Lyon than the sublime flourishes they have delivered at the RDS?

The coach with the winning streak against his name might well be the first.

“Ideally, we would like to play more. I think we had something like 45% of possession (against Lyon). Even against Glasgow it was something similar,” said Cullen this week.

“In an ideal world, we would prefer to have the ball more, impose our game more.

“We had some chances we didn’t quite take against Lyon… we were 10-0 up against Lyon and we had chances to kick on, then there is a lot more pressure on Lyon to play from deep and we can put even more pressure on.

Away from home, you’ve got to take all the half-chances that come your way. You talk about a clinical team, we need to make sure we’re clinical.

“Otherwise, you are in a situation like we were against Lyon. Suddenly, it was a seven-point game and they were coming at us in the last phase of play of the game and you’re there, ‘Jeez, we had chances to kill this game off.’

“I think we can kill those games off more with our attack.”

Purposeful possession will be all the more valuable against Chris Boyd’s Northampton, whose variety in attack was on full display against Leicester last weekend and in flashes in the hard fought win away to Benetton in Treviso.

james-lowe James Lowe in training. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Having so many key playmakers away on World Cup duty and far from the pre-season preparation that went into creating this winning streak has clear challenges. So two more weeks together under Cullen and Stuart Lancaster will massively aid the eastern province’s cohesion with the ball.

Cullen sent a side with 17 changes to the 23 for the win away in Glasgow, but it has not been a case of calling in rested front-liners on a straight reversal in that selection for the return to Europe. Jordan Larmour has been preferred at fullback to Rob Kearney, Andrew Porter earned the nod at tighthead ahead of Tadhg Furlong and 21-year-old Caelan Doris will get another chance to show his top-grade credentials in the back row.

Jamison-Gibson Park’s selection alongside Jonathan Sexton also feels like a statement of intent from Leinster. The now-Irish-qualified scrum-half will offer a different tempo and kicking variety in attack and both half-backs will be keen to turn around the Saints back three of Ahsee Tuala, Tom Collins and Taqele Naiyaravoro in order to create that vital platform to play from.

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella join Sean Farrell to discuss the most revealing post-World Cup insights yet and preview the December back-to-backs..

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud