Leo Cullen expecting tough Ospreys challenge: ‘Cockers’ teams are always abrasive

Leo Cullen expecting tough Ospreys challenge: ‘Cockers’ teams are always abrasive

Leo Cullen has braced his players for an altogether more challenging Friday night at the RDS tonight (kick-off 7.35pm), a week on from their eight-try hammering of Ospreys.

The Welsh side came to Dublin with a host of first-team players missing through injury and World Cup commitments, and went home red-faced, with Leinster hooker Rónan Kelleher leading the rout with a hat-trick.

But Cullen expects a different proposition from visitors Edinburgh tonight, with his former Leicester coach Richard Cockerill in charge.

The Scots beat Leinster 28-11 in their last meeting back in March, and Cullen says his side will have to be up for the fight tonight if they are to make it three wins from the opening three games.

“Treviso was a tight game, where we dug it out against 14 men — we were far from pleased, then it was better against Ospreys, but we need to refocus for this. We were well beaten over in Murrayfield last year, pushed around a fair bit,” Cullen said.

“You watch Edinburgh, you know the way Cockers sets his teams up, they’re very abrasive, very aggressive around the ruck.

“They’ll always have a strong set piece with Cockers, they’ve a strong attack too with Duncan Hodge a decent attack coach. There’s good experience with Nic Groom at No9, [Jaco] Van der Valt at 10 and Damian Hoyland in the backs. They’ve tons of experience, they’re a tricky team to come up against at this time of the year.

Even though they’re missing some players, they’ve got some real depth – so our guys have to make sure we’re nice and clear on what we can do.

“Last week was great, at the time, but it’s well and truly gone now.”

Cullen has impressed upon his players the importance of taking their chances in this three-game block, and hopes to see a solid display with the promise of a week off next week.

Leinster’s World Cup players could be home a week later depending on results in Japan, adding further incentive to impress.

With that in mind, Cullen has made few changes to the side that started against Ospreys, with Dave Kearney coming in on the right wing – the only change in the backline.

The same front five start tonight, but there’s two changes in the back row, with Max Deegan starting at blindside, and Scott Penny making his first start of the season at openside. Caelan Doris continues at No. 8.

“Whenever you go to Dublin, you’re always going to face a huge test,” said Cockerill: “They have a huge amount of experience across that team and they can win games with 15 guys missing at the Rugby World Cup.

“We know that they’ll be dangerous and we know that everyone will expect them to win, but people probably thought that last week when we travelled to Cardiff [and won]. We’ll go to Leinster with optimism and we’ll go there to win.”

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Dave Kearney, Rory O’Loughlin, Joe Tomane, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Peter Dooley, Rónan Kelleher, Michael Bent; Devin Toner, Scott Fardy; Max Deegan, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: James Tracy, Michael Milne, Vakh Abdaladze, Ross Molony, Josh Murphy, Rowan Osborne, Harry Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien.

EDINBURGH: Damien Hoyland; Jamie Farndale, Mark Bennett, George Taylor, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Nic Groom; Pierre Schoeman, Mike Willemse, Pietro Ceccarelli; Jamie Hodgson, Murray Douglas; Mesulame Kunavula, Luke Crosbie, Nick Haining.

Replacements: Cameron Fenton, Jamie Bhatti, Murray McCallum, Sam Thomson, Ally Miller, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, James Johnstone.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse

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