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'He brings a different level:' Leo Cullen hails record-breaking wing

By PA
James Lowe. (PA Images)

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen sang the praises of star winger James Lowe after their 56-20 Heineken Champions Cup round-of-16 second-leg win over Connacht at the Aviva Stadium.

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Lowe became the first player to score four tries for an Irish province in a single Champions Cup match, while Robbie Henshaw bagged a brace and Jamison Gibson-Park and Tadhg Furlong also touched down as Leinster ran out 82-41 aggregate winners.

“He put in a good week this week, James,” commented Cullen afterwards. “He’s very, very talented as we know. When he really applies himself, he’s as good as anyone who is out there. He worked hard this week and you see the rewards he got off the back of that.

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“Some good play for some of his tries, but he brings a different level in terms of the power that he has in contact. It’s a skill that he’s able to manage contact on his terms as well. It was great to see him go well over the last couple of weeks.”

Connacht, who trailed 28-3 at half-time, improved in the second half, with Tiernan O’Halloran, Sam Arnold and Abraham Papali’i all crossing, but yellow cards for Bundee Aki and Jack Aungier, coupled with injuries, left them down to 13 men at one stage.

 

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While Cullen has spent most of his playing and coaching career at Leinster, he enjoyed a two-year stint as a player with Leicester Tigers between 2005 and 2007.

He could be set for a reunion with his old club if Tigers follow through on their 29-10 first-leg lead over Clermont Auvergne at Welford Road on Saturday. The Leinster boss will keep a close eye on how that match finishes up.

“We’ll see how that game goes,” he added. “Leicester are very much in the driving seat at the minute. We’ll turn our attention, in terms of European attention, to who comes out of that.

“In the short term, we’ve a nice little trip down to South Africa (in the United Rugby Championship) over the next couple of weeks to occupy our minds.”

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In stark contrast to Cullen, Connacht head coach Andy Friend cut a frustrated figure in the aftermath of the interprovincial derby.

Connacht had edged in front with a second-minute penalty from captain Jack Carty, but the hosts responded eight minutes later with Gibson-Park’s try and never looked back.

“I thought we had an opening exchange there, which was in the process of giving us a bit of confidence,” said Friend.

“Pretty much the first time Leinster touched the footie, though, they ran 75 metres and scored. All of a sudden, all of that dominance that we had and the pressure we had exerted was just released. They seemed to go from strength to strength from there.

“The message is pretty simple. A game of footie is about tackling, wanting to tackle and wanting to win physical battles. When you don’t do that, it’s very hard to win a game of football.”

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