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Dublin: 16 °C Saturday 11 July, 2020

Selection headaches await Cullen as Leinster look ahead to Northampton

Leinster got the job done tonight and now the focus turns to the Champions Cup.

Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery celebrate Leinster's fourth try.
Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery celebrate Leinster's fourth try.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

IT WASN’T PERFECT but Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admits his side’s bonus point victory over Dragons this evening bodes well ahead of a crucial block of fixtures.

With most of their international players still unavailable, the province’s young guns once again stepped up and got the job done to move the club level on points with Munster at the top of the Pro12 table.

First-half tries from Peter Dooley, Ross Molony and man of the match Jack Conan set the hosts on their way before Joey Carbery sealed the fifth point shortly after the interval.

The intensity and energy did slip in the final quarter as Dragons scored two tries of their own and while Cullen admits that aspect of the night was disappointing, there were still plenty of positives to take.

“First 42 minutes probably, after that it looked pretty disjointed,” Cullen said, when asked whether he was happy with the performance.

“Overall we’re pleased with the outcome which is a win and a bonus point win as well. I’ll take it and move on to the challenges that are coming up.

“The Dragons we know do go hard at the ruck and I think we dealt with the threat in the first half. I just thought in the second half we were loose with our carries so which led to us turning the ball over cheaply a few times.”

Dan Leavy Dragons clap the Leinster players off the field. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

With the points sealed, Cullen used the rest of the game to unload his bench and give the likes of Andrew Porter, Charlie Rock, Ross Byrne and Max Deegan a run out.

“I don’t know what the numbers are but we had something like eight guys who started the year in the academy out there but it sort of says it all,” he added.

“It’s a great experience for those guys coming up against a team like Dragons who are very experienced as well. They hang in there, very dogged so it’s a great day for the likes of Jeremy Loughman for his first start, Charlie Rock and Max Deegan coming off the bench so it’s really, really pleasing to see them in senior Leinster jersies.

“It does bode well for the future but you learn all the time. I thought we struggled in the first half last week [against Scarlets] and we struggled in the second half last week. It’s learning for those guys, there’s definitely a step up in terms of the physical part of the game.

“For good chunks of the game I thought we were pretty good but it’s about getting that consistency and it’s something we need to be better at.

“It’s good to get another win and keep us ticking along. There’s not much room for error but we’ll park the Pro12 now and focus on Europe.”

The attention now swiftly turns to the resumption of the Champions Cup and a double-header against Northampton Saints.

Cullen’s decision to withdraw the influential and impressive Carberry after 50 minutes was a clear indication that his mind was already on Franklin’s Gardens.

Joey Carbery with Rynard Landman and Nic Cudd Joey Carbery was again hugely influential in pulling the strings for Leinster. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

While Johnny Sexton will be ruled out of that game, Cullen is hopeful to have Rob Kearney and Robbie Henshaw available while Noel Reid will have a scan on his ankle after being replaced 20 minutes into tonight’s game.

“There will be definitely a few more personnel around the building,” Cullen continued.

“We’ll make some assessments and see how they all look on Monday. Obviously we’ve watched the internationals closely so we’re basing a lot of calls around what happened then and what happened prior to the November series.

“I’ll have a look back on the tape from tonight and there’s going to be some really tough calls because guys are pushing to get selected in the team and we’ve two huge weeks with Northampton back-to-back. There will be some interesting discussions and plenty of headaches.”

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Youthful Leinster thrill RDS crowd with bonus point victory over Dragons

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Ryan Bailey

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