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Saturday 3 December 2016

Cullen must turn learning curve upward

Leo Cullen
Leo Cullen

Where to from here for Leinster?

The Professional Games Board have a lot of questions to answer.

The decision to sack Matt O'Connor last season was not made in company with a solid plan for moving forward.

The truth of the matter is that they could not attract the world-class coach they wanted for one reason or another, the proximity to the World Cup among them.

Leo Cullen was put in the position of being offered the head role after just one season as a forwards coach.

It had to be earlier than he would have wanted it.

But, what could he do? He had to take it when it came his way.

"I feel very inexperienced against a very experienced and wily coach," Cullen shared, just before kick-off at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Three hours later, Cullen had to relay reasons why his Ireland internationals could not overcome Pat Lam's Connacht.

"I'm pretty gutted," he said. "We have a huge amount of respect for Connacht and what they've achieved.

"It's a pretty remarkable season they've had and we have no complaints," he kindly offered.

"We weren't good enough which is probably the most disappointing thing."

Leinster's strategy for coping with Connacht was undone at the breakdown where they couldn't slow down ruck ball and in first-up tackles, missing a jaw-dropping 37.

"We didn't perform to the levels we're capable of," he added.

"We just misfired a little bit around set-piece and some of our ball control, particularly in that first-half.

"We just coughed the ball up unbelievably cheaply."

In fact, all three of Connacht's tries came from turnover ball, the first two from loose kicks, the third at a ruck.

Captain Jamie Heaslip was not about to turn to a list of excuses.

The No 8 is too long in the game to try to put a gloss on a performance that was more in keeping with their season than the semi-final win over Ulster.

"I don't think it got away from us. You can't detract from how they got their scores. They were the better team," he stated.

If nothing else, Cullen will have learned more this season than in any before it as a player or a coach.

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