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Dublin: 20 °C Tuesday 16 July, 2019
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Top man, top player Cullen the perfect choice to sustain Leinster culture -- Easterby

The Leinster manager praised Leinster’s next forwards coach who ‘has been around in the bad times as well’.

Cullen showing his skills earlier this month.
Cullen showing his skills earlier this month.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THERE ARE Ts to be crossed and Is dotted before Leinster will officially confirm Leo Cullen’s retirement or his installation as forward coach Jono Gibbes’ replacement.

However, that won’t stop the province’s back-room staff speaking in glowing terms of the outgoing captain.

As Cullen went about his regular business of training at UCD today, team manager Guy Easterby, who knows the 35-year-old better most having played alongside the second row for province and country, lauded his influence on and off the field.

“Firstly, there will be an announcement in the new year on this, but Leo has been a fantastic player for the club,” said the former scrum-half.

“His record and his captaincy is just incredible as well. A top man and a top player. When you’ve got a squad full of experience [he is] someone that still stands out as one of the natural leaders in the squad and he has been a fantastic influence on all the players.

“What I like particularly is his interaction with the academy guys, the amount of time he gives up to them. He’s doing that for very unselfish reasons; because he wants Leinster to continue to be successful, it’s not about Leo Cullen.”

The bad old days

Cullen is the first man to captain a team to three Heineken Cup successes, but as Easterby notes, the good times hadn’t started to roll until the Wicklow man returned from a stint with Leicester Tigers.

“They’re guys who were here in the bad times as well,” Easterby says of Cullen, Shane Jennings and Brian O’Driscoll, names he agrees helped to change the ‘nearly’ culture around the eastern province into a period of unbelievable success.

“Leo and Jenno headed off and that probably really helped the club when they came back from Leicester and they’d seen a way of going about their business that was different to Leinster.

“You’ve got to give enormous credit to those guys and the way they helped to implement change when they came back.”

O’Driscoll may well move outside the fold next season, but he will not stray far. And with Cullen and Jennings still driving the pack on from either side of the line, Leinster will continue to demand the high standards that have made Cullen’s career such a glittering one.

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Sean Farrell

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