Ahead of this Friday’s crunch GUINNESS PRO12 clash with the Scarlets at the RDS, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has spoken about the bonus point win over Benetton Treviso and integrating internationals back into the set-up.
After the bonus point success in northern Italy, one of the main questions from supporters was why Jonathan Sexton was not on kicking duties when he returned from the sin-bin during the first half.
Speaking to the media in Leinster HQ, Leo Cullen explained the decision was made because of Sexton’s 10 minutes out of the game.
“It was just when Johnny came off (for the yellow card offence), the fact that he cooled down, and Ferg (McFadden) has been kicking (in the previous games this season),” said Cullen.
“It’s just erring on the side of caution. It’s good that Johnny came back on and played, and he came off then, obviously, when the game went to 27-3.”
Sexton and his half-back partner Eoin Reddan, who was named man-of-the-match, were replaced by Cathal Marsh and Luke McGrath entering the final quarter, and Cullen was pleased with how the two young guns performed.
“I wanted to see Cathal Marsh again, and Luke McGrath. It was good to change those half-backs, to get another look at them. I thought they looked really, really sharp when they came on as well. So, good to see those guys really pushing for their place in the team.”
Asked for his assessment of the performance against Treviso, Cullen was pleased with the win and bonus point, but recognised there was room for improvement in certain areas.
“There were a couple of times maybe we did overplay when we were exiting, but the players have licence to go and play what’s there as well. It’s trying to get a handle post-match – what’s going through their heads, what are they actually seeing, and are they making the right choices based on what they’re seeing?
“There was some space that we could’ve kicked to on a few occasions, maybe played ourselves into a little bit of trouble a few times. But overall, for the first hit-out, we knew it was going to be very tricky against Treviso as well. We’ve a pretty poor record over there over the years. A lot of teams do because Treviso are a good outfit, particularly when they play at home.”
This Friday the table-topping Scarlets visit the RDS, and the Champions Cup opener against Wasps is also looming large on the horizon. With big matches every week, one of the challenges at this stage of the season is reintegrating internationals back into the Leinster environment.
The process is well underway, with 12 players that featured at the Rugby World Cup getting game-time against Treviso.
“I think it’s just getting guys used to what we’re trying to do,” Cullen said when asked about the internationals returning. “The terminology is like learning a new language – it’s not quite second nature yet.
“We’re getting guys up to speed and we’ll have a few more bodies back into the mix probably this week (against the Scarlets). We’ll see how everyone is post-game, how everyone comes through and we’ll make some assessments then.”