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Cullen eager to see improved Leinster performance with extra 'punch' from the bench

The Leinster head coach couldn’t help but think of the players he couldn’t fit into his matchday 23 for tomorrow’s final

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THREE WEEKS ON from the restart, three more wins to add to the pile, and Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is hoping to see his side hit their straps as they reach for the first of two available trophies.

Cullen today unveiled his starting line-up for tomorrow’s Guinness Pro14 final against Ulster (kick-off 19.35, eir Sport), but even more eye-catching were the eight replacements who look sure to give Leinster extra impetus if they are introduced with the game still in the mixer.

From the clinical tackling of Will Connors to the ever-calm head of Luke McGrath, to the presence of World Cup finalist Scott Fardy and former World player of the year Jonathan Sexton, the bench is yet another reminder of Leinster’s formidable strength in depth.

And as Cullen spoke about the challenge of Ulster ahead, at the the end of a unique Pro14 campaign, his mind returned again and again to the entire group of men who played a part in Leinster’s (so-far) unbeaten season. It’s understandable that his mind would be brought back there, given there are so many big names: Rob Kearney, Rhys Ruddock, Max Deegan, Sean Cronin are fit and well. The likes of Tadhg Furlong, Dan Leavy and  Dave Kearney will hope to be fit for another day.

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

“When you get to these knockout games you’re looking for a bit of freshness and a bit of continuity at the same time. That’s what we’ve gone for,” Cullen said, attempting to explain a handful of selection calls in one.

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“There’s a lot of guys not involved in the 23 that can count themselves unlucky because there’s a lot of really close calls.

We think we’ve a strong 23 that will hopefully represent the 53 that managed to play through the course of the year.”

“Ulster, you seen them against Edinburgh, we’re planning for a strong 80-minute game from them, so we need to make sure we have that bit of punch coming off the bench as well.”

The opening two weeks for Leinster were about bringing everybody back up to speed and last weekend’s semi-final presented them with an opponent determined to stifle the game. So Cullen hopes that week four into the restarted season and a second run at Ulster will see his side his side put in a comprehensive performance.

“It’s important to focus on performance at this stage. Over the first three weeks of the season we haven’t quite reached where we want to get to yet.

“So that’s very much at the forefront of our minds, how we direct a strong performance from our end. Hopefully conditions are good and we avoid the downpour we had at seven o’clock last Friday.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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