Thursday 17 January 2019

Des Berry: Cullen can take out his frustrations on Cardiff

Cardiff Blues v Leinster, Cardiff City Stadium, Live RTé 2 (Saturday, KO 6.30)

Coach Joe Schmidt has to strike a balance between the expected release of club captain Leo Cullen and scrum-half Eoin Reddan from the Ireland camp and going with the formation that has been at work all week.

A game plan is only as good as the understanding of it. That said, Cullen must be dying to get into a dust-up given the shabby manner of his treatment by Declan Kidney. He must want to hit someone.

To opt for the tried and trusted Ireland paring of Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan is understandable. To send Cullen on against France with eight seconds left on the clock was a slap in the face for a man who has endured more than his fair share.

Reddan, too, can take his frustration out on the Blues. He has been the form nine in Ireland this season, alongside Isaac Boss. The insistence of Kidney in playing an out-of-sorts Tomás O'Leary throws sand in the face of those that have to listen about how intense is the competition for places.

Back at Leinster, Schmidt will need all his old hands on deck to deal with a Cardiff side littered with the experience of captain Paul Tito, the wonderful Martyn Williams and a list of Wales internationals.


Coach Dai Young will be plotting Cardiff's fourth straight win in the Magners against Leinster, who are looking for their eighth in the combined League and Heineken Cup competitions.

"Leinster won the Heineken Cup two seasons ago, were runners up of the Magners League last season and they have kicked on again this year. They lose very few games when their internationals are away, so we know this is a big ask," said Young.

This match will also see the reappearance of Leinster's much-loved prop Stan Wright. The Cook Islander has spent many frustrating hours working his way back from a serious Achilles injury.

He is another who will be looking for contact.

Overall, Leinster will attempt to seek and destroy a Cardiff side that also likes to play with width and ambition. It should make for a pleasing spectacle.

Whether Leinster can activate their close-in runners to burst through the first line of defence is doubtful. If they can breach it, they will be in business. If they don't, it will be a long night.

Verdict: Cardiff

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