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Thorn exit will not hamper Leinster - Cullen

The Blues’ captain can’t wait to get stuck into a new season with a freshly stocked second row.

Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

LEINSTER CAPTAIN LEO Cullen has dismissed suggestions that the Leinster pack will be weaker without Brad Thorn.

The World Cup winning lock played a cameo role in the latter stages of the province’s push for honours in last season’s Rabodirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup.

It was only ever destined to be a short-term arrangement, but now in Thorn’s absence many commentators have pointed to the second-row as a possible weakness in the all-conquering Leinster setup.

It’s not a view shared by Cullen, who sat back in his chair before stating dryly:

“Brad was only here for a 10-week period at the end of last season. We coped alright in topping our pool last year without him.”

Along with the existing contenders to partner the skipper, Devin Toner and Damian Browne, Leinster have added two more second row recruits to the mix. Twenty-one-year-old Quin Roux has joined from Super XV side the Stormers while Tom Denton has swapped Leeds for Dublin. It’s no wonder Cullen says: “I think we’re pretty well set in that area.”

Cullen’s engine room will be put to the test for the first time this weekend when Leinster travel to Wales to begin their Pro12 assault against the Scarlets. After what he calls “a mixed bag” of pre-season results, the 34-year-old is just one of many in his squad looking to get back into action with the unrivalled intensity of an competitive match.

“All in all, pre-season friendlies are to serve a certain purpose and that’s about getting guys game -time, trying to put a shape on the way we’re playing and giving a few younger guys a bit of experience playing at this level.

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“But it’s back to the serious stuff and back trying to win some points in the league this weekend.”

In the opposing dressing room, a familiar face will be trying to make the game even more ‘serious’ than Leinster suspect. Llanelli coach Simon Easterby’s Leinster link is obvious — with brother Guy managing the eastern province’s squad — but Cullen too has history with Simon. Not only within the senior Ireland set-up, but at under-21 level too.

It’s a factoid that briefly makes Cullen feel his age. And to the revelation, he laughs: “It’s a bad sign when you’re underage colleagues are head coaches of clubs.”

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Sean Farrell

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