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Sunday 8 December 2019

Cullen: World Cup wide open

Leavy not certain to return this season

Leo Cullen cannot ever remember a more open-looking Rugby World Cup
Leo Cullen cannot ever remember a more open-looking Rugby World Cup

Leinster coach Leo Cullen views this as the most open World Cup ever.

In the eight previous tournaments, there have been two or three true contenders, almost always spearheaded by the All Blacks.

With New Zealand in a state of vulnerability and South Africa looking all powerful, it is difficult to state with any confidence which country stands out.

"Wales were going to go to number one in the world, if they had won at the weekend, but they got beaten by England," said Cullen.

"It will be interesting to see how the Irish guys go when they play against England."

Then, there was the way the Wallabies dealt with New Zealand in Perth and South Africa's crushing domination over Argentina in South America.

"There are lots of teams that can win the World Cup, genuinely win it, whereas I don't think that was the case in the past."

The probability Joey Carbery will have to take a back seat for the next month, maybe even longer, with an ankle injury offers a glimpse of Japan to Ross Byrne, Cullen hopeful his second-choice fly-half can "get a crack at it."

Dan Leavy had both his anterior and medial cruciate ligaments repaired in July.

There is still a long journey ahead for the Ireland flanker in his bid to return to full fitness.

"He is on the road to recovery," he said.

"I don't get the impression he needs anything else done. His last operation was the ACL repair.

"The ACL are all different. It is in that 6-9 month window. Because he has had other bits going on, it will be a big chunk of time. It is impossible to give any accurate information."

There is no guarantee Leavy will be available before the end of the season.

More positively, Leinster's James Lowe is earmarked to return from his shoulder reconstruction just in time for the start of the season.

Ireland U-20 Scott Penny had to sacrifice the World Cup in Argentina in order to recover from the reconstruction of both shoulders.

Jamison Gibson-Park took part in training at Energia Park after his hamstring rehabilitation.

Hugo Keenan's hamstring is just one week behind that of Gibson-Park after suffering damage playing for the Ireland 7s.

Meanwhile, Ben Armstrong's Leinster Women squad for the Inter-provincial championship includes no less than ten players looking for their first cap, including Ulster transfer Larissa Muldoon.

The squad of 30 will be captained by Sene Naoupu as the Blues campaign to recapture the title begins against Connacht at Energia Park on Saturday (KO 5.30).

There is a good crowd expected as it takes place in between Leinster's opening pre-season match against Coventry (KO 3.0) and the Leinster's U-19s opening to the Inter-provincial series against Ulster.

2019 LEINSTER WOMEN'S SQUAD: E Anthony*, C Blackmore, J Bobbett*, L Callan*, M Claffey, A Clarke, A Coleman, J Deacon, L Djougang, A Doyle*, C Dunne*, D Earle*, J Finlay, C Haney, R Horan, A Hughes, G Matthews, G Miller*, L Muldoon*, J Murphy, S Naoupu (Capt), N Ni Dhroma*, M O'Brien, E O'Byrne-White, H O'Connor, K O'Dwyer, L Peat, M Scuffil-McCabe*, J Short, M Williams.

(*Denotes Uncapped Players)

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