Double jeopardy as Cullen learns from past glories

LEO CULLEN knows just how difficult it can be to play back-to-back finals over successive weekends but the Leinster captain is hoping lessons from his past can stand to the province in this Saturday’s Magners League Grand Final.

Four years ago, Cullen and Leinster team-mate Shane Jennings were part of a Leicester Tigers side that claimed the Premiership but fell short against Eoin-Reddan’s London Wasps eight days later in the Heineken Cup final. The Tigers had put 40 points on Wasps three weeks before and accumulated almost 100 points in three games in the run-up, but their approach off the pitch accounted for their disappointment on the last day of the season.

Their mistake? Not enjoying the moment.

“It was funny because we got the bus back from Twickenham to Leicester (after the Gloucester game) and it was real low-key,” said Cullen, who gets married next week.

“We didn’t really celebrate, the focus was already on the following week.

“We played Wasps in the final and Redser had a good day but not so much for me and Jenno. It certainly wasn’t a good experience. You need to get the celebration out of your system, so hopefully the lads have done that on Saturday and Sunday.”

That they have. Leinster were back on Irish soil long before closing time last Saturday night and took another chance to soak up the positives vibes the following afternoon at their RDS honeymoon and it was Tuesday before they put on their boots again.

But Cullen knows the biggest workload falls on the forwards and it was interesting to hear Leinster tighthead Mike Ross and hooker Richardt Strauss talk about how hard it has been to shrug off the knocks from their win in Cardiff.

Cullen, for one, believes Joe Schmidt will shuffle his deck for Thomond Park. Another lesson learned, perhaps, and one Leinster hope proves as instructive as that provided by Munster at the start of April.

Ronan O’Gara kicked Munster to the narrowest of victories that day after Leinster led by 11 points at the interval, but Schmidt’s side have swept aside seven opponents in the interim, England and France’s elite among them.

“We killed ourselves with our discipline in that game,” said Cullen of that defeat.

“That’s one of the big things that served us really well in the big games. Our discipline has been really good. With a guy like Rog in their team, it was a bit of a killer with that kick at the end. We know Munster are a team that are not going to go away.

“They got stronger and stronger as the game went on. We talk of that swing of momentum. We couldn’t get a foothold in the game. We got bullied in the contact areas and that’s something we will look at for this weekend.”

Cullen was full of praise for Munster who, he said, would never have coughed up the 16-point buffer Northampton enjoyed last week.

His assertion that Leinster will go into the fixture as underdogs was less convincing though. For now, all celebrations are on hold.


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