Sexton and O'Brien unscathed (just a bit annoyed) after half-time withdrawal

Head coach Leo Cullen says the pair were ‘pissed off’ to be removed before the second half.

Image: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Sean Farrell reports from Altrad Stadium

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen reported no fresh injuries to Sean O’Brien and Jonathan Sexton despite taking both players off at the halfway stage of today’s 22 – 16 loss to Montpellier.

O’Brien and Sexton made their return from respective hamstring injuries in the Champions Cup fixture, with the latter taking a back seat on kicking responsibilities in an apparent effort to take the strain off the recovering muscle.

However, Cullen says the duo were “pissed off” once informed they were to be replaced by Jordi Murphy and Joey Carbery after 40 minutes.

“The two of them came through and they were pissed off coming off at half-time,” said the head coach in the tunnel of the Altrad Stadium.

“The kicking is really between Isa and Johnny, those two are bouncing off each other all the time. I don’t make the call on who kicks, those two guys have a ton of experience and if Isa steps up and says he’s happy, Johnny goes ‘yeah.’

“Him and Seanie, the two of them are coming back in. We’re making assessments all week on those guys on what’s suitable and not putting guys at unnecessary risk.”

As for the defeat, Cullen was left annoyed by the giveaway of ‘cheap’ tries to Montpellier. Not just the Jamie Heaslip offload into the hands of Nemani Nadolo, but also the rapid loss of momentum that paved the way for the other two tries.

For the most part we handled things really well. But then we get a really good turnover and give the ball straight back to them when they score. It felt like a really cheap seven points.

“Couple of minutes later we defend a maul quite well to the sideline, but we defended quite narrow because of some of the threats they have and then Nadolo — really strong finish from him, we know the threat he poses.”

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Leinster’s Isa Nacewa scores a try Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

The theme in Cullen’s assessment continued with the third Montpellier try: strong set-piece work in the maul is undone by a single error. Yet Cullen credited his side for their ‘fighting spirit’ in striking back within seven after all their hard work had unraveled.

“You have to be able to deal with things like that if you want to progress in this tournament. I thought the lads  scrambled their way back into the game, showed good fighting spirit.

“Even after not getting over a couple of times, for Isa to get over at the end was pleasing and Isa’s smart enough to get a little closer to the posts to make the conversion a bit easier.”

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Sean Farrell

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