Warriors prevail as Cullen looks at the bigger picture

PRO 14 Scoreboard here with this one Leo Cullen said Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final will be a litmus test for him and his coaching team’s player management system.

Warriors prevail as Cullen looks at the bigger picture

[team1]Leinster[/team1][score1]24[/score1][team2]Glasgow Warriors[/team2][score2]39[/score2][/score]

Leo Cullen said Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final will be a litmus test for him and his coaching team’s player management system.

For the third time in as many league games, Leinster failed to win on Saturday, going down 24-39 to Glasgow Warriors at the RDS, the Scots’ first win in Dublin since 2011. Trailing 18-12 at half time, Cullen sent on Cian Healy, Seán Cronin, and Tadhg Furlong to boost their shadow side, and the hosts had the lead as the hour mark passed.

But three converted tries in the last 15 minutes handed victory to Dave Rennie’s outfit, who now look odds on to book a home PRO14 semi-final, and force Munster into the quarter-finals — one week before a potential Champions Cup final.

“You will definitely get a better idea on Sunday,” Cullen answered when he was asked if team cohesion may be an issue against Toulouse.

“By using so many players, there is a challenge with that. That’s why the 23 next week will be lucky enough to get selected to play in the game.

“We will have a six-day turnaround into Ulster and we don’t play on that [Pro14] quarter-final weekend. That is another opportunity for us to conserve energy for whatever is after that.”

Cullen said the dressing room was “miserable” and “disappointed” after Saturday’s late defeat, but most of those involved will not be around this coming weekend when the four-time champions come to town.

Johnny Sexton, who has not played for Leinster since December, and has not played since the Six Nations ended, is set to start against the Top14 side, while James Ryan, Jack Conan, Garry Ringrose, Rory O’Loughlin, and Luke McGrath could also start having sat out the two games since the quarter-final win over Ulster.

Healy and Cronin played 40 minutes on Saturday — their only game time since the Ulster game — while Furlong is expected to be available despite limping off on 25 minutes against Glasgow, with a knee injury.

Adam Byrne, another late sub on Saturday, is in the mix, while Devin Toner, who played the full 80, and Robbie Henshaw, who lasted an hour, will likely start despite making their first appearances since Ireland’s Six Nations defeat to England in February.

Guys have all played now, who are going to be playing next week, so it’s not like they are going to be coming in cold,” said Cullen.

“They will have spent some time together. They will get a good week together next week. Everyone knows [their jobs], they have all played together at various different stages. There is a ton of experience in the group. It’s just about putting a nice cohesive week together now.

Cullen said Furlong was “happy enough to go on” but the tighthead was removed as a precaution, while he was happy with how Henshaw went alongside the impressive Joe Tomane in midfield, after the centre recovered from his dead leg.

“Robbie is good, it’s just about trying to get back into the rhythm again,” said Cullen. “He played 50-odd minutes and Dev [Toner] got through 80. It’s pleasing to get that time. That’s a tricky balance, that’s why mentally there are certain challenges in the wider group for us. The backroom team have done an unbelievable job in terms of getting everyone fit and available bar a couple of guys.”

Seán O’Brien impressed in the No 7 shirt, to put his hand up ahead of the key end-of-season games he missed through injury last year, and his experience could yet be vital against the Top 14 side.

Cullen said: “We’ve played them against them already, and I don’t know if that’s an advantage or disadvantage, depends on how you want to look at it. We experienced what losing to Toulouse feels like. I thought the guys prepared really well the week of the Toulouse game here at home. We need to make sure we knuckle down and put in a big week’s work.”

LEINSTER: R Kearney (Rep: A Byrne, 62), J Larmour, J Tomane, R Henshaw (Rep: C Frawley, 59), D Kearney, R Byrne, J Gibson-Park (Rep: H O’Sullivan, 65); E Byrne (Rep: C Healy, 40), J Tracy (Rep: S Cronin, 40), M Bent (Rep: T Furlong, 40-65); D Toner, J Dunne (Rep: W Connors, 73); J Murphy, S O’Brien (Rep: M Deegan, 49), C Doris

GLASGOW WARRIORS: S Hogg; T Seymour, K Steyn, S Johnson (Rep: P Horne, 21), N Matawalu (Rep: H Jones, 67); A Hastings, A Price (Rep: G Horne, 67); J Bhatti (Rep: A Allan, 63), F Brown (Rep: G Stewart, 76), Z Fagerson; S Cummings, J Gray; R Harley, C Fusaro (Rep: Ashe, 3 - Rep: B Flockhart, 63), M Fagerson.

Unused replacement: D Rae.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR).

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