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Dublin: -1°C Monday 1 March 2021

Leo Cullen: Leinster must learn and 'be better' after off-field incidents

The province’s head coach said steps have been taken to ensure there isn’t a repeat of the events of last May.

LEO CULLEN, THE Leinster head coach, says the province have learned lessons and the players have been reminded of their ‘responsibility to act in a certain way when we’re out together’ after two off-field incidents overshadowed their Pro14 title victory at the end of last season.

Cullen added that Leinster ‘weren’t happy with the way we handled ourselves’ and that, as an organisation, they will endeavour ‘to be better’ moving forward, following events on Sunday 26 May as the squad celebrated their victory over Glasgow Warriors.

Leinster’s Sean O’Brien lifts the Trophy and the team celebrate O'Brien lifts the Pro14 trophy in Glasgow. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Seán O’Brien was sanctioned by the IRFU in June after the union’s investigation into ‘an incident of inappropriate behaviour’ during Leinster’s title-winning celebrations in a Dublin pub, while the night previous, a former Leinster player allegedly knocked a current player unconscious at a private team function at the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge.

At the time, Leinster Rugby said it had concluded its investigation into that incident ‘to the satisfaction of all parties’, and Cullen, commenting on the matter for the first time, said the organisation and players must share the responsibility ‘to uphold ourselves to the highest possible standards’ in a social environment. 

Speaking after Leinster’s pre-season victory over Coventry at Donnybrook this afternoon, Cullen said: “We have looked at it a lot. There were things that we didn’t get right at the end of the season. When you play a final at the end of the season [and the players] disperse and don’t come in again as a group, it is a challenge.

“The national guys in particular, you can’t really bring those guys back in because they have a short window for holidays. We have talked to the Glasgow coaches and they were bringing their guys back in at the end of the season.

We had events where you have a mixture of former players coming together, there were a couple of things that happened in that period that we don’t like to see. We talked about it a lot, we addressed the players just in terms of steps that we can put in place.

“When you get a group of guys who are out celebrating, blowing off steam at the end of the season, there is trouble out there, something that’s in our control and we can be better.

“There are things that we can control better ourselves and that’s what we will try to do moving forward. We weren’t happy the way that we handled it ourselves.”

O’Brien, who recently underwent hip surgery and is due to join Premiership club London Irish next season after more than a decade with his native province, was sanctioned by the IRFU ‘in line with the provisions of his contract.’

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Cullen added: “There are a couple of different things that have happened and some of that falls on the club and some of it is on the players. How we manage, I guess, celebrations when the group are out together on a night out, in particular. We will endeavour to be better.

Leo Cullen Cullen at Donnybrook this afternoon. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It was an unusual end to the season the fact we had this big dinner thing [10th-anniversary celebration of 2009 Heineken Cup win]. The players had a night out at the end of the season as well prior to that.

“We played the Pro14 final and then on the Sunday another incident takes place. We could probably be better with having someone that’s there keeping an eye on them so to speak.

“It’s important that players are allowed to go out and they want to be able to celebrate but you need to be able to…they’re being judged slightly different to the rest of the general public and that’s the way it is.

“We need to understand that we have more of a responsibility to act in a certain way when we’re out together. We’ve talked to the players already and, as I said, some of that falls back on the club and how we handle certain situations as well. You probably know what I’m talking about, without getting into the specifics of it.

“It’s definitely something we want to learn from so it doesn’t happen again. For us as a whole, all of us, the players and staff, we have a responsibility to uphold ourselves to the highest possible standards.” 

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Ryan Bailey  / Reports from Donnybrook

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