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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

Leo Cullen backs Leinster teammate Heaslip to make winning difference for Lions

‘Jamie was probably our best player at the end of the season and he carried that form into the Lions tour’.

Jamie Heaslip is in fine form Down Under says Leo Cullen (r).
Jamie Heaslip is in fine form Down Under says Leo Cullen (r).
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

LEO CULLEN IS gearing up for a charity trip to Ethiopia with GOAL but he wants to see the Lions claim their first series win in 16 years before he packs his travel bag.

The Leinster captain is midway through a hectic, six-week summer but is determined not miss a minute of Lions versus Wallabies action.

He told, “The Lions couldn’t put them away. The Aussies are a stubborn old bunch. Only for the fact that they lost their first-choice kicker, Christian Leali’lifano, they could’ve won that game. They are not that all amazing of a team on paper but they are a very competitive bunch and hung in there all match.

“Australia do have Will Genia, though, who is close to being the best player in the world, if not the best. He can produce that moment of magic that can turn a game on its head.”

Cullen feels Lions coach Warren Gatland missed a trick in the first Test, which the Lions edged 23-21, by withdrawing his front row too soon. Tighthead Mako Vunipola, he feels, may be a useful carrier of the ball but the attacking platform of a dominant scrum may be sacrificed.

He added, “Paul O’Connell is a big loss but Geoff Parling will run a decent lineout. Tom Croft will be missed at the lineout too but Dan Lydiate brings a different edge. I’m happy to see Sean O’Brien on the bench and believe he’ll make a huge impact in the closing stages.”

Jamie Heaslip has garnered a lot of praise on the current tour and not too many hackles were raised when he was selected ahead of Wales’ Toby Faletau at No.8. The Irish captain was excellent for 70 minutes last weekend but faltered badly at the back of a creaking scrum. By not getting the ball out quick enough, Heaslip saw one put-in stolen by Genia and that crucial last-minute penalty conceded as the scrum buckled. Cullen said:

The Lions were guilty of trying to kill the clock and the Aussies got a good shove on. With Lydiate and Sam Warburton teamed up in the back row, Jamie may have a licence to pick and go a bit more. He was brilliant for Leinster at the tail-end of the season and really carried that form into this series.

“With Jamie, Lydiate, Mako Vunipola, Jonathan Davies and George North, to name a few, all out on the pitch tomorrow, it’s clear that Gatland is going for a collision based game. He is looking to overpower the Wallabies to close out the series.”

* will be liveblogging all the Lions v Australia Second Test action from 10am on Saturday.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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