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Sunday 19 February 2017

Coach Cullen: Sky is the limit for both Byrne and O'Loughlin

Leo Cullen
Leo Cullen

Leinster coach Leo Cullen could be overseeing the changing of the guard, for the moment anyway.

An ankle operation has taken Dave Kearney away from the game for up to another six weeks.

The 27-year-old Ireland wing has not played in Blue since the start of October against Cardiff Blues in the League.

Fergus McFadden, 30, has not been seen since he was removed from the same PRO12 match with a quad injury which has been something of a mystery.

In addition, Luke Fitzgerald has been forced into retirement far too early.

The absence of Kearney and McFadden, two men with a lot left to give their province, has left a void into which Adam Byrne and Rory O'Loughlin have sprinted.

"I just think if the players are serious about self-improving all the time, the sky is the limit.

"That goes for every player that we have in our squad," said coach Leo Cullen.

"We've got some talented young men and they're working hard, pushing each other hard."

Twenty-two years old Byrne holds the accolade of being the youngest player, at 18, to be capped by Leinster in the professional era.

He has come back from two broken legs to be the highest try-scorer this season with seven tries in six games.

Coming through the clubs system from Naas, Byrne is a serious athletic specimen with a lot of growth left in his game.

"He's big and powerful alright," said Cullen.

"He works incredibly hard which is his probably best attribute."

The emergence of Rory O'Loughlin has not been as meteoric, even though he, too, has been hindered by serious injury.

The natural outside centre, 22, has played nine times for Leinster this season, started five of them, and bagged two tries in two appearances against Northampton in The Champions Cup.

"He, like Adam, has been desperately unlucky with injuries in the last couple of seasons.

"He hasn't really had a proper opportunity to put his hand up even in training to show what he is able to do.

"He trained incredibly well during the course of pre-season. He carried over some really good form from those games.

"We want the players to pick themselves. If they play well, they will get picked," added Cullen. "He's playing really well and putting great pressure on other guys that are there."

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