Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has been crowned the Loch Lomond Coach of the Season in the United Rugby Championship.
He collected the award after leading the province to win the inaugural Irish Shield and to finish top of the URC table. Their challenge ran aground in the play-offs with last Friday’s 27-26 semi-final defeat to the Vodacom Bulls.
“I’d like to thank the URC for the award which I will accept on behalf of the wider coaching group and the 60 players that pulled on a Leinster Rugby jersey this year,” commented Cullen.
“The season most certainly did not end the way we would have liked, but there were many highlights and positives over the year.
“I’d like to wish the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls the very best of luck in this weekend’s final. Having played both teams recently, it will be an intriguing final and a great way to bring the curtain down on the first season of the United Rugby Championship.
“The introduction of the four South African clubs has raised the standards and we’ll all have to raise our game to compete with them next season.
“We would dearly love to be there and will watch with keen interest. We look forward to challenging for the title again next season.”
Cullen’s men posted a record-breaking victory over Glasgow Warriors at the quarter-final stage, but missed out on a place in the decider after suffering a disappointing home loss to the Bulls.
Cullen also led Leinster to the Heineken Champions Cup final this season, with the concession of a late try making for a heart-breaking finish as La Rochelle prevailed 24-21 in Marseille.
The Loch Lomond Coach of the Season award was voted for by the URC’s 16 head coaches and leaves only one prize still to be announced – the Players’ Player of the Season.
It is the second prize won by a Leinster representative during the URC Awards, with Ross Byrne having been selected at out-half in the Dream Team.
URC Award Winners List
Turnover King: Jac Morgan (Ospreys)
Gilbert Golden Boot: Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys)
Top Try Scorer: Leolin Zas (DHL Stormers)
Ironman: Ruan Nortje (Vodacom Bulls)
Next-Gen Player of the Season: Evan Roos (DHL Stormers)
Vodacom Fans’ Player of the Season: Evan Roos (DHL Stormers)
Loch Lomond Coach of the Season: Leo Cullen (Leinster)
Dream Team: Warrick Gelant (DHL Stormers); Seabelo Senatla (DHL Stormers), James Hume (Ulster), Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers), Leolin Zas (DHL Stormers); Ross Byrne (Leinster), Craig Casey (Munster); Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks), Johan Grobbelaar (Vodacom Bulls), Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks), Jean Kleyn (Munster), Ruan Nortje (Vodacom Bulls), Marcell Coetzee (Vodacom Bulls), Nick Timoney (Ulster), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers).