herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Leinster hand ex-Lion Leo two-year contract as coach

Sexton donates landmark jersey to help injured Berkeley girl

Leo Cullen
Leo Cullen

THE worst-kept secret in Irish rugby was confirmed today as former captain Leo Cullen was named as Leinster’s new head coach.

It is understood that Leinster rugby have agreed a two-year contract with the ex-forward who was part of the coaching team under Matt O’Connor last year.

Cullen retired in 2014 and has been in charge of Leinster in a temporary capacity since O’Connor stepped down.

Lock Devin Toner said Cullen has the backing of the squad.

“We’re very confident in the team that is there. Leo has the backing of everyone,” he said.

“I think Leo’s put in place a really good structure and training’s been going really well.”

Toner admitted the upcoming season will prove challenging as several key players of the squad will be taking part in the Rugby World Cup.

“It’s going to be a really difficult season, a big chunk of us will be gone [during the World Cup] and when we do come back in it’ll be straight back into things. But everyone’s looking forward to it,” Toner said.

Kurt McQuilkin will extend his stay as defence coach while John Fogarty will act as scrum coach.

Girvan Dempsey is set to continue as backs coach until Richie Murphy’s commitments with Ireland at the World Cup come to an end.

Commenting on the appointment, Leinster Rugby CEO Mick Dawson said: “We are delighted that Leo has agreed to become our Head Coach and to continue an association with Leinster Rugby that started back in 1995 with the schools team.

“Leo’s status as a player is beyond question. He is second only to Gordon D’Arcy in terms of senior appearances and he was an outstanding captain and leader on the pitch,” he added.

Interim

“Over the last 12 months or so in his capacity with the forwards and indeed over the pre-season as interim Head Coach, Leo has continued to impress everyone at Leinster.”

Earlier this week, Leinster and Ireland rugby star Johnny Sexton donated one of his jerseys to an auction raising funds for Berkeley survivor Aoife Beary.

Ms Beary (21) suffered a traumatic brain injury in the incident which saw six Irish students lose their lives in June.

Her family say she is on a path towards recovery and is being cared for at the Santa Clara Medical Centre in California.

The jersey is from Sexton’s 50th cap with Ireland and the current highest bid for it stands at €130. The auction has been organised by the extended family of Ms Beary and is due to close at midnight tomorrow.

Other items up for grabs include a jersey and rugby ball signed by the entire Irish squad, along with tickets for this weekend’s game.

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