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'A lot of guys are unlucky to miss out, that’s just the nature of the competition'

Leo Cullen has kept a number of Leinster’s frontline internationals on the bench for tomorrow’s Pro14 final.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen during Friday's captain's run at the RDS.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen during Friday's captain's run at the RDS.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen admits he had to make some difficult selection calls this week after naming his team for tomorrow’s Pro14 final meeting with Munster [KO 5pm, eir Sport/TG4].

While Munster have restored the majority of their Ireland internationals to their starting team, Cullen has opted for a different approach, keeping faith with many of Leinster’s Pro14 regulars while keeping some of his frontline internationals in reserve, with Tadhg Furlong, Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park, Johnny Sexton and James Lowe all starting the game from the bench.

“These are always very tricky (decisions) as we know, for lots of different reasons,” Cullen said.

“There are a lot of moving parts through the course of our regular season. For a lot of our regular Pro14 games we do a lot of chopping and changing, so we end up racking up quite a lot of different players that are involved in the games over the course of the season.

“So it’s tough, a lot of guys are unlucky to miss out. That’s just the nature of the competition. We know at the start of the season that’s the way it is.

“We have to be respectful of guys who go away with Ireland – we try to celebrate that fact – and when they come back in, we’ve to be respectful of what some of those guys have achieved.

“It’s about trying to get the balance, and hopefully we’ve got that in the 23 we have but there’s definitely a few guys that are very, very unlucky to miss out.

“A few guys have picked up knocks as well so they miss out through injury. With other guys, there were very tight selection calls.”

The province head into tomorrow’s decider looking to land a fourth successive Pro14 title, while they also have an opportunity to record a sixth straight win over Johann van Graan’s team, with Leinster winning the most recent meeting 13-10 in Limerick.

“It’s pretty similar to what we would have faced in Thomond back in January,” Cullen said of the Munster team.

“Andrew Conway comes back in, another Blackrock man. Pretty much it’s what we would have expected, so two teams that will be going be hard at it.

“It’s such a brilliant fixture, isn’t it? For lots of different reasons… But yeah, we know those guys will be motivated and hopefully our guys are motivated for their own reasons as well.

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“So it should be a great challenge. But it’s a team that we know well, we know that they know our guys very, very well. One of the players said it this week, it’s strange when they’ve spent the last eight weeks together as best friends (in the Ireland camp) and now they’ll come bashing out against each other, after battling together for the past two months.

“But even you can see different glimpses of Munster and how they’re evolving their game as well, the (influence of the) coaches, so it’s just important that we understand all the different threats. There’s all the traditional threats but there’s some more recent ones then as well.

“Joey (Carbery) is another good Blackrock man, and it’s good to see him come back in for them. So it’s a big, big game for him as well.” 

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey field listeners’ questions about Ireland’s victory over England before turning their attention to the club game, and Super Rugby in the Pacific Islands, prospective law trials up north and, of course, this weekend’s Pro14 final between old rivals.

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