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'We're running out of games': Leo Cullen fronting up for business end of the season
Friday marks Leinster’s penultimate fixture at the RDS this season, unless they can make a late push for the top two.


LEINSTER FORWARDS COACH Leo Cullen admits time is running as his side stand on the edge of the final portion of the season.

With five games remaining in the regular season of the Pro12, the reigning champions find themselves outside the four playoff places after a poor run of form that ran parallel to Ireland’s Six Nations triumph.

This Friday marks their penultimate home league fixture and, against a Glasgow Warriors side that tops the table, it’s poised to be anything but straightforward.

Leo Cullen Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“We’re running out of games,” Cullen says of his side’s aim of finishing in the top two to force one extra date in the RDS.

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“We need to get some big wins on the board in the last five games in the league.”

A further hurdle to a smooth transition in to the business end of the season has been the disruption involved in providing players to Ireland camp. Even those who did not feature heavily in the Six Nations Championship were often air-lifted out of the Leinster changing room and into training at Carton House as required.

Now, despite almost three weeks passing since the defeat to Scarlets, Cullen calls the Friday kick-off in Dublin a ‘short turnaround’ as they welcome fringe internationals back into the mix before an even bigger game comes the following week.

It’s going to be a big day trying to get as much detail in their heads as possible –  we need to make sure we’re in good shape coming in to Friday.

“Through the week it’s about integrating some guys that won’t be involved [against Glasgow] so they can get a head start on what is a very big quarter-final. It comes around very quickly this year which is slightly unusual.”

European commitments aside, Glasgow are arguably in a more difficult position with personnel, though the Warriors who dominated Vern Cotter’s Scotland team didn’t have quite as much to celebrate after the Six Nations. Cullen is hopeful that his side can put the “patchy” form of one win the last five behind them with the pack driven to perform by the imminent return of Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy.

Leo Cullen Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“Seanie’s starting to hit a bit of form, so is Cian Healy who missed massive chunks of the season.

“To have the two guys back it’s great for us. It’s like having two new players in a way. They’ve only played four or five games each. Hopefully they stay injury free for the rest of the season, because you see at the weekend, the two of them were pretty exceptional.”

“We’re just a little bit outside the top four. Ideally we’d have liked to have one or two more wins under the belt, but we don’t.

“We’re in a position where we can manage our way through the rest of the season. But every game is massively important now. That’s a very exciting challenge for us.”

Originally published 25 March, 17.23

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