Monday 11 December 2017

Cullen lavishes praise on Ireland's "spiritual leader"

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell (pictured, right) claimed to be uncertain on Sunday about what he will do after the Rugby World Cup.

This hasn't prevented French newspaper Midi Olympique reporting that he could be on his way to Grenoble, the Top-14 club coached by Bernard Jackman and O'Connell's former Young Munster club-mate, Mike Prendergast.

Leo Cullen, meanwhile, believes Ireland have found the perfect blend between the detail of Joe Schmidt and the passion of O'Connell.

"Paulie is the spiritual leader, that's what it looks like, of the team. He drives them," said the Leinster forwards coach.

"Joe will bring all the detail but, for the emotion, a lot of the players would see Paul as the figurehead for that, something that he has done time and time again with Munster and Ireland.

"He's going to be a big loss whenever he goes. It seems that it will be his last Ireland-England game at home in Dublin.

"He's such a big character for the 15 years he's been doing it with Ireland. He's been a phenomenon for them."

Cullen was taken with the level of aggression Ireland showed against England with Leinster forwards Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Seán O'Brien and Jordi Murphy all starting; Cian Healy, Marty Moore and Seán Cronin coming off the bench.

Meanwhile, Cullen also confirmed Leinster have been in discussion with Isa Nacewa on a possible contract to return to the province next season during the Rugby World Cup.

"I know talking to him how much he misses being here," he said.

"He was probably the outstanding player that we had during that time."

Springbok Zane Kirchner is expected to soon conclude negotiations on a contract extension.

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