This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 23 February, 2019

'It's like going back to pre-season' - Cullen wary of disrupting rhythm after Six Nations

After a week off, Leinster are settling back into preparation for a crucial set of fixtures in their season.

Cullen spoke to the media this afternoon.
Cullen spoke to the media this afternoon.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen has learned his lessons from earlier in the season and will ensure the return of the international players to his squad doesn’t disrupt the team’s progress.

With the Six Nations drawing to a conclusion this weekend, Cullen will soon have a full deck to choose from after being without as many as 13 players through Ireland duty.

And while the impending availability of many of his senior players will bolster the province’s Pro12 play-off push, Cullen is wary of reintegrating them back into the side all at once.

“You’re trying to get the balance right all the time,” he told The42. “There’s no perfect world unfortunately when you’re bringing guys back in. Some guys have to get back up to speed as quickly as possible and other guys do pick things up a little bit quicker.

“In many ways, it’s like going back to pre-season again as you try and reintegrate guys. It will be slightly easier for guys who have between two camps because they’ve been chopping and changing between two environments, it won’t effect their return as much.”

For now, however, Cullen is concentrating on the players at his disposal ahead of Friday’s rearranged trip to Glasgow.

The original fixture fell victim to the weather last December and in the intervening period, the complexion of Leinster’s season has changed.

After being dumped out of Europe, the province found their stride in the Pro12 and victory this weekend would move them to the top of the standings as the final stretch approaches.

Aaron Dundon, Steve Crosbie and Isa Nacewa Aaron Dundon, Steve Crosbie and Isa Nacewa arrive for training at a sun-kissed UCD. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“There’s always ups and downs over the course of the season, it’s whether you can do all that grind work to get you in a position to challenge later in the season,” Cullen says.

“We knew the importance of the different blocks, trying to get as many points as possible like during this phase, which allows us to be in a position where we can challenge at this stage in the season and a little bit later.

“We were pretty gutted at the way Europe went but we had some good performances back then. There were parts of the game that were good but it was just hard to string them all together for a whole host of reasons now looking back on it but it’s different.

“Conditions are different as well. Conditions have changed dramatically even over the last 10 days so pitches will start to firm out and you’ll see a lot more attacking rugby.”

Over the course of the Six Nations, Leinster have picked up a head of steam by recording four successive victories – but a visit to the defending champions marks the start of another crucial period.

Interpros against Connacht, Munster and Ulster are all on the horizon as the race for the play-offs intensifies.

“I’m pleased with the four wins but this week is another challenge,” Cullen continued.  ”Our last game against Ospreys, there were some really pleasing parts but there is still plenty to work on, particularly from that second-half of the game.

“I thought we had some good opportunities to put the game to bed at the end of the first-half but we just took our foot off the gas slightly which was disappointing.

Fergus McFadden Leinster defeated Glasgow in the reverse fixture back in October. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But a very different challenge in Glasgow. They are very competitive as we saw over the course of last season. They’re a very damgerous team, like to play with some decent width, very strong offloading game and a very, very well coached team.

“They go hard at the breakdown and push the limits all the time. If you look at the yellow card standings, they are a team that does push it. I think they have 13 yellow cards, we came in for a bit of criticism for our discipline but we only have seven yellow cards so they do push the limits and go hard at the breakdown.

“It will make it quite difficult for teams playing against them and we need to make sure we’re accurate with the ball and aware of the threat they pose across the board.”

Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow have endured a difficult campaign to date but with two games in hand can still make a late charge for the top four.

They, like Leinster, have been able to concentrate their efforts on domestic proceedings after falling at the first hurdle in Europe.

Cullen admits the miserable European campaign still haunts him but the squad have been able to move on with the Pro12 the only focus since January.

“Europe seems a long time ago but it’s coming back into everyone’s focus now and people often forget the work that has to go to get you to the later parts of the season.

“Unfortunately for us in Europe that’s not going to be but our sole focus now can be on the Pro12.”

The42 is on Snapchat! Tap the button below on your phone to add!

England prop Joe Marler cited for this alleged strike in win over Wales

Dan Carter and Casey Laulala linked for a stunning Racing counter-attack try

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

Read next: