Friday 21 October 2016

Leo is wary of Wasps' sting

Leinster must show signs of life in European pool of death

Leo Cullen, pictured, believes his side still have to catch up with his pool opponents
Leo Cullen, pictured, believes his side still have to catch up with his pool opponents

The good, the bad and the great of European Rugby gathered around the various microphones and cameras for the launch of The Champions Cup at The Stoop in Twickenham yesterday.

Leinster's three-time Heineken Cup winning captain Leo Cullen was right there at the heart of the conversation as a rookie coach thrust right into 'The Pool of Death' with Toulon, Bath and Wasps.

First things first, Leinster have to get ready to host the League-leading Scarlets in the PRO12 at The RDS tomorrow night in what looks like the perfect dress-rehearsal for Wasps at the same venue nine days later.

"It is important we try to get a look at a few different combinations," Cullen told 'Down The Blind Side' podcast.

"Scarlets will be going hard out to win the game because they're setting the pace, six-from-six at the moment in the League.

"We still have a good bit to do to catch up with them."

Surely, the Leinster of tomorrow will not resemble that of three weeks ago at Scarlets as Cullen makes ready for the dangerous Pool Five English club Wasps before Bath and Toulon are both combated before Christmas.

"It is going to be a very challenging pool, it is fair to say," said Cullen, in something of an understatement.

"There are nine or ten win between the four teams, a lot of European pedigree there.

"We can't look too far ahead for sure."

Full-back Rob Kearney, back three Springbok Zane Kirchner, utility back Ian Madigan, prop Mike Ross, flanker Sean O'Brien and number eight Jamie Heaslip have not played a single minute for their province this season.

They will certainly need some sort of game time to get better acquainted with the ways and means of Cullen's detail.

It would seem Leinster won't have to worry about the influence of old boy Jimmy Gopperth, who has been suspended for three weeks after being cited for a swinging arm on Leicester Tiger Matthew Tait at the weekend.

"Wasps are up first. They've recruited well during the off-season," he noted.

"I watched their game against Leicester. They weren't a million miles away."

The fact Gopperth will not play does not detract from his insider knowledge.

"He knows us very well which always poses a challenge because he's familiar with what we're trying to do here."

Of course, this is not quite the case as Leinster have a new coach in Cullen, backs coach in Girvan Dempsey and defence coach in Kurt McQuilkin and a way of playing the game that harks back to the glory years between 2009 and 2012.

In addition, there is also the return of the dynamic duo Jonathan Sexton and Isa Nacewa to give Cullen what Matt O'Connor never really had, real world-class leadership and direction in behind.

It was back on day one of The Champions Cup last season that Leinster had to haul themselves off the floor in the first-half to hammer out a 25-20 victory at The RDS.

"We struggled at home for large parts," warned Cullen.

"We made tough work of it and put ourselves under a lot of pressure."

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