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'I’d be very wary of anything the coach of La Rochelle says in the media' - Cullen cautious on O'Gara quotes

Leo Cullen says he won’t pay too much attention to Ronan O’Gara’s various media commitments ahead of next weekend’s Champions Cup final.

Leo Cullen and Ronan O'Gara
Leo Cullen and Ronan O'Gara

Updated May 20th 2022, 8:15 PM

LEO CULLEN SAYS he won’t be paying too much attention to what Ronan O’Gara says in the media in the build-up to next weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup final.

Cullen’s Leinster face O’Gara’s La Rochelle at Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome next Saturday, with O’Gara’s regular appearances in the Irish media providing another layer of intrigue ahead of the game.

The La Rochelle head coach writes a weekly column with The Irish Examiner and regularly appears on Off The Ball, and the former Munster and Ireland out-half has already discussed next week’s Champions Cup final on both platforms this week. 

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s United Rugby Championship Clash with Munster, Cullen said he won’t read too much into what O’Gara says in the lead-up to their meeting in France.

“I would definitely be wary of anything that’s there, for sure. Is that the polite way of saying it?” Cullen said, smiling at the suggestion there might be valuable information hidden in O’Gara’s words.

I’d be very wary of anything that the coach of La Rochelle says in the media because I’m sure he knows exactly what’s going on in his own world versus what he wants to put out there in the world. We take certain things with a pinch of salt.

“At this stage you’ve got to focus on yourself. It’s very easy to get distracted by the outcome. For us we’ve got to go through our own rituals.  

“Preparing well leads to performing well. Getting our own stuff right so we can impose our game on the opposition, whoever we play, whether it’s Munster this week or La Rochelle next week. Everyone has got to come up with a plan about how to stop a team.  

“Having some level of understanding of the DNA of the team you are up against, what will they try to do etc… When you think back to last year when we play La Rochelle and lose in a semi-final, they’ve a lot of world class, top end players in their ranks. Jono Gibbes was there as well, obviously ROG, a very strong Kiwi influence as well, (Victor) Vito, (Tawera) Kerr-Barlow and (Ihaia) West.

“Jono had some inside knowledge, but there’s always a bit of that that goes on, but again, what can you do? It’s understanding what people know, I guess, understanding the threats of the team we’re up against.”

Leinster have already thrown themselves into their preparations for La Rochelle, with Cullen making wholesale changes to his team for tomorrow’s meeting with Munster.

With top spot in the URC already secured, Leinster have the luxury to rotate and refresh their squad. By this point Leinster’s matchday 23 for their Champions Cup outings has a familiar look to it, but Cullen stressed that those set to feature against Munster tomorrow must see this fixture as an opportunity to keep their name in the mix.

“Everyone has to be ready for anything,” Cullen added.

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“Anything can happen. It was an unbelievably unfortunate injury for Tommy O’Brien [in training before Toulouse], that’s an example, he was running and in the team when that happened.  

“This is the time of year when a player steps up and does incredibly well it’s very hard to ignore that. Our lads have to focus on themselves and deliver a big performance for the team. That’s when the team will be at its best.  

“It’s an opportunity for our guys and some guys are very close. Some guys have been in the match-day squad for Toulouse. Other guys get a chance to showcase what they can do. Some have been itching for an opportunity for the last couple of weeks.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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