Sunday 26 January 2020

Cullen is aiming to finish pool stage as top seeds

Champions Cup: Leinster v Lyon, Live BT Sport 1 (KO 1pm)

Leo Cullen
Leo Cullen

The sense of inevitability about Lyon's team selection was unavoidable; and now, so too is tomorrow's result.

A Leinster victory was always the most likely outcome and with Lyon making 10 changes from last weekend, the French side will do well to avoid a big score being put on them at the RDS.

Even without Johnny Sexton (knee) and James Ryan (calf), Leinster are primed to stretch their winning run this season to 15 games.

Sexton and Ryan are making good progress in their rehab programmes, with the out-half set to be fit in time for the start of the Six Nations and Ryan in line to return again Benetton next weekend.

For Leinster, the next fortnight is all about finishing the Champions Cup pool stages as top seeds.

In truth, they should have little trouble in collecting the maximum 10 points against Lyon and Benetton, which would set them up nicely heading into the knockout stages.

"Certainly it was touched on, that's for sure," Cullen said of his side's bid to secure a spot as top seeds.

"It is hugely important. The home quarter-final is important because statistically there is a better chance of winning a quarter-final if you are at home.

"We've got ourselves into this situation, it's just trying to push on, to try and win with a bonus point, try and make sure we maximise every try and point in the game. And we'll have the same mindset the following week."

It all sounds very ominous for a Lyon side, who are now putting their full focus on the Top 14, where they are flying high in second place.

Cullen warned his players to expect Lyon to try and slow them down at every given opportunity.

"In terms of possession, it's just being accurate when we have the ball, that we don't get sloppy, that we are not forcing passes, not getting impatient, trying to make something magical happen," Cullen maintained.

"Just making sure that we don't allow those guys access to the ball so then we can control possession better."

Max Deegan will be looking to build on his outstanding performance against Connacht last weekend with Cullen revealing that: "There are a lot of guys who aren't in that 23 who are pretty p***ed off and would like to be involved in the game."

That kind of competition is Cullen's biggest headache which, for Lyon, spells all kinds of trouble.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster : J Larmour; D Kearney, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; R Byrne, L McGrath; C Healy, J Tracy, T Furlong; D Toner, S Fardy (capt); R Ruddock, J van der Flier, M Deegan. Reps: S Cronin, P Dooley, A Porter, R Molony, C Doris, J Gibson-Park, C Frawley, R Kearney.

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