'We've used the break well but nothing beats playing' | Cullen looks ahead to Leinster return

Leo Cullen's Leinster finally return to the field of play this weekend as they take on Montpellier i...

4:22 PM - 14 Jan 2022

'We've used the break well but...


'We've used the break well but nothing beats playing' | Cullen looks ahead to Leinster return


4:22 PM - 14 Jan 2022

Leo Cullen's Leinster finally return to the field of play this weekend as they take on Montpellier in the Heineken Champions Cup.

The game at the RDS will be their first since 11 December when they beat Bath in the same competition.

The five-week break saw game postponements in the URC and the controversial cancellation of their European game away to Sunday's opponents.

Montpellier were awarded the game on a 28-0 bonus point basis after it was cancelled as it was deemed impossible to safely go ahead.

Speaking ahead of the game Cullen says it hasn't been easy for anyone - players, coaches or staff.

He says he's happy though with how they dealt with the situation.

"A slightly frustrating period but at the same time, the guys have applied themselves unbelievably well.

"They've worked away and worked on lots of different parts of our game over the last few weeks.

"It's been nice and competitive in training but that doesn't quite beat games though and everyone is looking forward to getting playing now.

"There's a genuine excitement to get back, particularly to get back to the RDS.

"I know we're still restricted in terms of crowds but for the 5,000 or so lucky ones who get to go, hopefully, it'll be a good day for them.

"I love the block of Christmas games that the provincial teams have to play.

"You've big European games and derby games with huge intensity.

"You've Festive Season crowds as well which add to the sense of occasion.

"It's quite an attritional battle when you do it week on week but this year is completely different.

"Nothing beats the excitement of playing games but we try to use the time as well as we can when we get it.

"In many ways, it's been like a little mini-season for the guys."

Since the Montpellier cancellation, and the awarding of points to the French side Cullen's side find themselves under unusual pressure for this stage of the tournament.

Leinster currently sit eighth in Pool A with the top eight sides qualifying for the Round of 16 meaning they can't afford any slip-ups.

Cullen has explained how their campaign hasn't gotten off to a positive start but they must focus on what's in their hands, the next game.

"Our first game against Bath, we were frustrated at the end of that game because we probably let some opportunities slip towards the end and weren't really clinical in the last 20 minutes.

"The following week [Montpellier cancellation]  as we know was hugely frustrating and that sort of feels like it's ever on-going.

"It's created a lot of frustration in the club because the tournament means so much to everybody here.

"For us now though where we are it's just about trying to get back and control what we can.

"We've tried to work hard over the last few weeks.

"We've great competition in the group, everyone is looking forward to playing.

"Hopefully, we'll get a great atmosphere and try and get whatever we can out of this game this week."

In terms of team selection, Jonathan Sexton will start Sunday's game on the bench with Ross Byrne starting at out-half.

The 36-year-old has been out with a knee injury he picked up while on international duty in November.

Cullen says he will feature.

"He's worked hard, he's trained well the last few weeks.

"We put all the players through those game scenario pieces and he's come through that well.

"Hopefully, he'll provide a big impact off the bench for us this weekend and that'll serve him well for what's ahead over the next few weeks."

Elsewhere Robbie Henshaw and Ryan Baird are not included in the matchday squad.

Cullen says this is unfortunate for them but does expect to welcome them back soon.

"Both of them came back and were training today but it's just a little bit tight on time for the two of them.

"They're there now, both fit and available, but just the way the week went - because we had certain training scenarios, but they'll be in the mix next week."

Leinster Starting 15 to face Montpellier:

15. Hugo Keenan
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Ciarán Frawley
11. Jimmy O’Brien
10. Ross Byrne
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Andrew Porter
2. Rónan Kelleher
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Ross Molony
5. James Ryan (Captain)
6. Caelan Doris
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan


16. Dan Sheehan
17. Cian Healy
18. Michael Ala’alatoa
19. Rhys Ruddock
20. Max Deegan
21. Luke McGrath
22. Johnny Sexton
23. James Lowe.

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