Champions Cup: Leinster boss Leo Cullen ‘keeping a lid’ on final hype after last season’s disappointment

·4-min read
Leinster's Leo Cullen looks on at training. Credit: Alamy
Leinster's Leo Cullen looks on at training. Credit: Alamy

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is certainly not getting carried away by their dismantling of five-time European champions Toulouse in the semi-final.

The Irish province were once again imperious as they thrashed Les Rouge et Noir and reached the showpiece event with a 41-22 triumph.

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However, last season they secured a similar result against the mighty Toulouse, overcoming their opponents 40-17 at the Aviva Stadium, but then proceeded to succumb to La Rochelle in the main event.

Leinster were defeated 24-21 by Ronan O’Gara’s men in Marseille and Cullen is doing everything he can to make sure that history does not repeat itself.

Final in Dublin

The Irish province do have an even greater advantage this time around, with the clash taking place in Dublin, but the job still needs to be completed on the pitch.

“It’s great to be in a final now, and hopefully it’s going to be a special day,” Leinster’s head coach said.

“There will be a fair old demand for tickets, but this what we wanted all season. Everyone has worked their butts off to get to this point.

“It’s just trying to keep a lid on it now. There was a lot of hype after the semi-final against Toulouse last year and we didn’t deliver our best game in the final. That’s what we have to try and focus on.”

Cullen was pleased with their overall performance against Toulouse, especially when the Frenchmen were reduced to 14 men.

Following Thomas Ramos’ and Rodrigue Neti’s yellow cards, Leinster won those 20 minutes 28-0 as they lifted their intensity when it mattered most.

“There was plenty of good stuff in the game,” Cullen said.

“When Ramos goes to the bin we get a couple of tries during that period, and I thought the guys were pretty clinical at important stages.

“The tries come in different ways. It’s pleasing because there’s a bit of variety in our game, and that’s a thing we’re trying to develop all the time.

“We’re delighted to be through, but it’s a semi-final, and that’s about eking through by even a point, and delivering a better performance in the final.”

Balancing the URC knockout stages

The Leinster head coach also admits that the end of the campaign will be a balancing act, with the United Rugby Championship play-offs beginning next weekend.

They take on the Sharks in a quarter-final before playing their last-four contest a week later should the Irish province get through.

Sandwiched in between that match and the URC showpiece event will be the final of the Champions Cup, so Cullen understands that every game is vital.

“The season’s structure is different this year, so we’re into a quarter-final next week. We’ve got to get our heads around that pretty quickly,” he added.

“The most pleasing thing is to be in a final because that’s what it’s all about. For us, it’s, ‘Right, the job is done, that part of the job is done and let’s turn our attention to what the next challenge is going to be.’

“We’ll watch the game (the semi-final between La Rochelle and Exeter Chiefs) with great interest and see what comes out of that.

“In the meantime, coaches already towards the tail end of this week, you’re turning attention towards the Sharks and now the players come in on Monday morning, review the game, and take the learnings from it, things we can do better and there are some excellent parts of that performance.

“We just look forward to the next challenge. We know we’ve got a quarter-final but we’ve never really had a sequence of games quite like this. At the very start of the season, you’re looking at the prospect of being here.

“Even the fact that we’re playing a quarter-final here (Aviva Stadium) as well because Bruce Springsteen is playing in the RDS, which is great in many ways because it makes it tidy.”

READ MORE: Five takeaways from Leinster v Toulouse as Irish province take advantage of French side’s ill-discipline

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