With a win over Zebre in the GUINNESS PRO12 last weekend, Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen is looking forward to this Sunday’s opening European Champions Cup match against Wasps.
Leinster’s 20-3 victory away to Zebre came after the Italian side defeated Ulster and were unfortunate to lose by a single point to current league leaders, the Ospreys.
Speaking to the media ahead of the start of the inaugural European Champions Cup, Leo Cullen said he was impressed with the players grinding out a tricky away result.
“I thought the intent was really, really good from the lads – we’d some young guys coming in to the mix. It’s a tricky place going to Zebre. I think they’re going to cause plenty of upsets this year when they’re playing at home. They already got a good result against Ulster and ran Ospreys pretty close,” explained the Leinster forwards coach.
“We were a bit unlucky I think not to score a try in the first half which could’ve made things a little easier for ourselves in the second half. The lads battled away well, we would have settled for 20-3 before the game so we’re pretty happy.”
With the first six rounds of the Guinness PRO12 now complete, all eyes turn to Europe with Leinster preparing to face Wasps on Sunday evening at the RDS (kick-off 5.15pm).
“It’s a totally different challenge now against Wasps, who’ve been playing pretty well in the Premiership. Watching their game against Bath (which Wasps won 29-22), they showed some good intent themselves, a very strong set piece and they’ve a lot of dangerous threats all across the park.”
Asked how much Wasps have changed since they were defeated by 20 points at home to Leinster in a Challenge Cup quarter-final in 2013, Cullen insists they are a improved team that have added well to their squad.
“I think (around the time of the Challenge Cup match) they were scrambling around in the Premiership. I thought they recruited very heavily over the summer, they’ve added some good players into the mix. I think they’re very, very dangerous.”
As for the Leinster camp, Cullen says that despite injuries to forwards Martin Moore, Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy, the mood in the squad is good with the players solely focused on the challenge of Wasps this weekend.
“I think everyone’s very excited heading into Europe – it’s a massive challenge. We’d have a lot of faith in the group. I have the utmost faith in the guys. The mood is very good after (last weekend).”
As well as preparing for the Champions Cup, Matt O’Connor’s men also welcomed a new arrival to the squad this week. Ben Te’o – an NRL champion with the South Sydney Rabbitohs just two weeks ago – joined up with the squad and took part in his first training session on Monday.
From what he has seen so far, Cullen is impressed with Te’o’s athleticism and is looking forward to seeing him in competitive action for Leinster.
“I don’t know if you guys have seen much of the NRL, but he’s been very impressive in the semi-final and final. I think he’s a pretty outstanding athlete and a very aggressive carrier.
“He has a massive work-rate as well. I just saw his stats from the (NRL) final where he made 33 tackles so he’s a really good athlete.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do. We want to try and get him out on the pitch as soon as we can,” added the province’s former captain.