Cullen out to prove a point

Despite a rugby career decorated with triumphs at domestic and European level, Leo Cullen feels he has a point to prove in New Zealand about his international rugby credentials.

Despite a rugby career decorated with triumphs at domestic and European level, Leo Cullen feels he has a point to prove in New Zealand about his international rugby credentials.

A total of 31 international caps is a disappointing return for the Blackrock graduate considering he made his Irish debut ten years ago against the All Blacks.

Having twice been overlooked by Eddie O’Sullivan in previous World Cups, Cullen will be taking his first steps on rugby’s premier stage aged 33 and he concedes things haven’t always gone the way he had hoped.

“Missing out in 2003 was a particularly bad memory,” Cullen told the Belfast Telegraph.

“I didn't get picked for 2003 and those four years afterwards were pretty lean internationally.

“When Eddie (O'Sullivan) rang me in 2007 I was expecting him to call me so it wasn't too big a deal.

“In my head I still thought I could have done a job but I was realistic in that I hadn't been involved.

“But 2003 was really tough.

“My international career hasn't always gone the way I would have liked.

“I still feel like I have a lot to prove in terms of international rugby.

Since the disappointment of 2007 however, Cullen has become a more influential figure in Irish rugby, guiding Leinster to two Heineken Cup victories and becoming the 100th man to captain Ireland when he led the team against Scotland on August 6.

The experienced lock joked about a return to his schoolboy position of number 8 to escape the battle for places in Ireland’s second row.

While this competition for a starting jersey may reduce Cullen’s game time it is also the thing which drives him to play harder when he’s on the pitch.

“I'd love to (play number 8), yeah, part of me would still love to but, physically, second row is the way my body's gone I think.

“It's hard to get a continuous run in the team, which is something I have never really had and that is what motivates me.

“I feel better now than I did four years ago, physically, and I have a point to prove and I am looking forward to getting an opportunity to show it.”

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