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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Leo Cullen clings on to hope from lessons of the past

Leo Cullen
Leo Cullen

Sometimes you have to look back to move forward.

Forwards coach Leo Cullen knows now what he did not know before the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2009.

It takes something special to shed the unwanted label of an under-achiever as Leinster seek to save their season away to the titans of Toulon.

"Leinster have been in this position before where we were really struggling to deliver the goods at this tail end of the season when it came to the knockout games, quarters or semis," he recalled.

"I just think back to 2009 where going into that semi-final, no one gave us a chance. It's a very similar feeling."

Since then, Leinster have come to learn how to win whereas Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has simply imported winners.

"At least, the guys now know that if you execute in a certain manner in the game then you will get a positive outcome," he said.

"Back then, we were just being written off all the time and had nothing to cling onto because we didn't have a history of producing the goods on the big day."

The powerbrokers of the game reside increasingly in France and England, to where most of the world-class players are attracted.

"With the 30 internationals they have, it's not a level playing field is it, realistically? Because the resources they have are not the same as what we have," he said.

"We have to make the best of what we've got and that's what we're trying to do. We're in a semi-final and it's been a little bit ugly along the way getting to this point.

"But we're here and we've got a crack at it. It's just important that guys are going into the game with confidence that if they execute the plans then we will see the opportunities."

Kane Douglas is unlikely to beat his back problem, leaving a real deficit at second row, while Fergus McFadden has recovered from his concussion.

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