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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 23 September 2020

'You've got to take your hat off to what they've done' - Cullen wary of Wasps threat

The Leinster head coach knows his side won’t have it easy tomorrow afternoon.

Cullen will take charge of his first European game on Sunday.
Cullen will take charge of his first European game on Sunday.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

THEY MAY BE the pool’s lowest ranked side but Leo Cullen is wary of the threat Wasps carry ahead of Leinster’s Champions Cup opener tomorrow.

The two-time European Cup winners have experienced a revival under Dai Young and arrive in Dublin infused with the believe they can cause an upset throughout the course of the campaign in Pool 5.

With Toulon and Bath the group’s other sides, there is little room for error in the quest for qualification and Cullen is fully aware of the scale of the challenge facing his side at the RDS.

“I think they’ve made really good progress,” Cullen said on Friday. “Really steady progress the last number of years under Dai Young. I think they’ve a very strong set-piece, good strong scrum, very effective from the line-out and a good strong driving game.

“The addition of George Smith has brought another level to their game in terms of his experience, both as a defender and at the breakdown. That’s the great skill he has – turning over the ball at the breakdown.

“He offers a lot in attack too. A lot of their attack goes through him – he’s a really good distributor. They’re strong across the board.”

The two sides know each other from a couple of highly competitive European ties last season and Cullen believes the Premiership outfit are stronger this time around after a couple of shrewd summer acquisitions.

“They’ve made some really good additions during the summer,” he continued. “You’ve got to take your hats off to what Wasps have done.
“When Dai Young was first there, there were so close to getting relegated. To have the shift they’ve had has shown the ambition off the field to move to a new a city, take the whole organisation somewhere else.”You’ve got to hand it to them. It’s an amazing sort of model they’re pushing and I’m sure it’s something a lot of other clubs would be looking at.

“You can put resources into the team and they’re definitely a team on an upward curve and we know it will be a very tough challenge.”

Leo Cullen and Isa Nacewa Cullen was speaking alongside Isa Nacewa yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Wasps have had a mixed start to the season but come into this game off the back of an encouraging 23-3 defeat of Gloucester last time out.

Captain James Haskell is unavailable due to injury and former Leinster out-half Jimmy Gopperth is serving a ban but their side is still littered with internationals.All Blacks Charles Piutau and Frank Halai will make their European debuts on Sunday, while Ruaridh Jackson, Joe Launchbury and Bradley Davies have all got European pedigree.

With a capacity crowd expected in the RDS, Cullen knows it will a big occasion to kick-start this year’s European campaign.

“The two teams know each other know pretty well from last year,” he added.

“We’re looking forward to a big occasion at the RDS and a big crowd to get behind the team because we know it will come down to fine margins.”

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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