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New Zealand trip helpful in Leo Cullen's development as a coach -- Gibbes

The Leinster captain took time out during the Six Nations to go on a fact-finding mission in the southern hemisphere.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

OUTGOING LEINSTER FORWARDS coach Jono Gibbes says his successor Leo Cullen had nothing but a positive experience in a recent trip to New Zealand.

The retiring Leinster captain was able to take advantage of the fractured Pro12 period during the Six Nations to take time to go and experience the southern hemisphere approach.

“It certainly wasn’t recruitment,” responded Gibbes after we enquired whether Cullen may have spotted a second row on his travels.

“It was more development really for him. An opportunity to visit a couple of different environments down in New Zealand. Just to get a look, an insight into how they structure things, how they set things up from a coaching point of view, how they scout opposition teams and basically understand and get an insight into different coaching processes.”

With 215 Leinster caps to his name and a further 56 appearances with Leicester Tigers. As successful as his playing career has been, however, Cullen felt the need to expand his horizons further. Especially as Gibbes says that sharing ideas and theories between provinces isn’t exactly commonplace.

“That [Cullen's two clubs) is his perspective, so he felt he needed to go out and have a look around at different places.

"It's very hard for him to, say, ring Axel and ask how he does things, because you just can't  do that in Ireland or in Europe to gain knowledge like that.

"It was good, he enjoyed it. There were a some things he's picked up will be helpful for him next year and reaffirmed, cemented a few of his own beliefs really."

Cullen will take over from Gibbes as the Kiwi departs having presided over an incredibly successful period in which the province has won three Heineken Cups, an Amlin Challenge Cup and the Pro12 title.

'The things you cherish'

Although Clermont-bound New Zealander would dearly love to see his current side play and win five more games this season and earn him a sixth medal as forwards coach, he says the trophies are not necessarily the most satisfying moments.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The trophies and the championships are a bi-product of the people in the environment.

"I think the trophies don't really matter so much as the experiences you have with those people -  the support for the team, those are the sort of things you cherish.

"Even though there was no trophy handed out that day in Croke Park [against Munster] in the semi-final, but everyone there wearing blue meant it was a special occasion. Those are the things that matter to me.”

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Sean Farrell

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