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Schmidt: Leo's set to sign one-year contract

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NUISANCE: Leinster's Leo Cullen tries to rob the ball off Glasgow's Alastair Kellock at the RDS. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

NUISANCE: Leinster's Leo Cullen tries to rob the ball off Glasgow's Alastair Kellock at the RDS. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

NUISANCE: Leinster's Leo Cullen tries to rob the ball off Glasgow's Alastair Kellock at the RDS. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

THIRTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD Leo Cullen is on the brink of signing a one-year contract extension at Leinster.

"I would be really confident that Leo would continue here next year with us," said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt. "That is providing he gets through the next game or two in one piece. He's pretty keen to get closure there, get certainty in what he's going to do."

The club captain is waiting on the finer details of an agreement that will enable him to give it one last blast with his province.

There is well-founded speculation that Cullen has yet to agree terms based on the type of deal on the table. The players are paid a retainer for their services with built-in incentives through bonuses.

As each individual gets older, the tendency is to reduce the retainer and increase the incentive, or bonus, thus providing the motivation for older players to maximise their diminishing time in the game.

 

Durability

The general wear and tear on the body means men like Cullen and Brian O'Driscoll, 34, lose some of their durability. But there is a difference between needing to stay on and wanting to.

Cullen has developed business interests outside the bubble of professional rugby and will soon qualify as an accountant. He doesn't have to play on. Cullen would argue that he has been consistent in terms of performance and minutes. He has already played more matches and is just 20 minutes short of what he played last season.

There is an equal or stronger argument to be made about the added-value men like Cullen provide on and off the field for the likes of Quinn Roux, 22, Mark Flanagan, 23, and Ben Marshall, 22; and for the demands they place on extending the Leinster culture. It has been recognised that the return of Cullen and Shane Jennings from Leicester Tigers in the summer of 2007 was central to a transformation in the Blues' environment.

There are big changes afoot. Jonathan Sexton, Isa Nacewa and Heinke van der Merwe are on their way out. Schmidt has one year left on his contract.

O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, 33, and Mike Ross, 33, will not be around for much longer.

The succession-planning at Leinster will surely encourage Schmidt to move the captaincy from Cullen, with Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip a strong candidate.

Even O'Driscoll handed the Leinster armband over to Cullen when he was Ireland captain. Paul O'Connell passed on the torch to Doug Howlett at Munster. Rory Best parted company with it to Johann Muller at Ulster.

There is a complication in that Heaslip holds the Ireland office. This is a wide-ranging responsibility in and of itself. Of course, a change of Ireland coach could very well lead to a change of Ireland captain.

Everything ends for everyone eventually. But, in Cullen's case, not for one more year.


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