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Dublin: 18 °C Thursday 19 September, 2019

'I don’t think we’re that sentimental a bunch' - Leo Cullen ahead of Pro 12 final

Matt O’Connor is happy to have the ‘continuity’ of Jimmy Gopperth at 10, with ‘class’ to spring from the bench.

Cullen embraces O'Driscoll after the 2011 Heineken Cup triumph.
Cullen embraces O'Driscoll after the 2011 Heineken Cup triumph.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LEO CULLEN SAYS Leinster’s preparation for the Pro 12 final against Glasgow tomorrow evening at the RDS have been no different to any other game, despite the fact that he and Brian O’Driscoll will play their last games before retiring.

Head coach Matt O’Connor echoed that assertion in outlining that Leinster have “tried to keep it as normal” as possible in training this week, focusing on their usual processes rather than the retiring players.

At the very top end of the game, you can’t afford to have that sentiment, said the Australian. “It’s not an issue; it’s about 23 blokes delivering on what they need to deliver on in 80 minutes. Beyond that, we’ll get what we deserve. The focus in on the 80 minutes.”

Cullen has been selected on the Leinster bench for the clash with the Warriors, and admits to being a little disappointed not to start, even is he is “happy to still be involved” at the age of 36.

The province’s captain says that himself and O’Driscoll have avoided marking this weekend in any way, instead keeping their heads down in training and contributing to a positive build-up.

“It’s business as normal for everybody, I don’t think we’re that sentimental a bunch, every now and again maybe.

“Brian’s obviously had a great send-off in Paris with Ireland, with the manner of winning the Six Nations in Paris. It was such a fitting end to his international career. All the fellas are in real good form and trained really well this week and will be keen to give him a good send-off with Leinster as well.”

Leo Cullen and Alastair Kellock Cullen with Glasgow skipper Al Kellock in Ballsbridge this afternoon. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Meanwhile, O’Connor explained his decision to continue with Jimmy Gopperth in the number 10 shirt ahead of Ian Madigan.

“He’s [Gopperth] been in that slot the last couple of weeks, so there’s the continuity that goes with that. The versatility that Ian gives you later in the game is a huge strength for the group, which we saw against Ulster.”

Sean O’Brien “is 100% fit” but O’Connor will use him off the bench for what he hopes will be a telling impact late on, possibly negating the influence of Glasgow subs Leone Nakarawa and Niko Matawalu.

It’s going to be a very, very tough 80 minutes. From that end, we’ve had to have a little bit of a look at what we can get out of the bench. To have the class that we’ve got on the bench coming onto the field is a real positive for us.”

Darragh Fanning finds himself wearing the number 23 shirt, with O’Connor happy that the powerful wing has earned his place over the course of the season, even if injuries have played a role in his selection.

“It’s probably last man standing to be fair, so that’s where we’re at. We got a couple of injuries in the back three. He’s been very, very good for us; he’s recovered from a broken arm and he played well in the B & I game. He thoroughly deserves his spot in the 23.”

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Murray Kinsella

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