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'I've coached for a long, long time and I've never lost by this score'

By PA
Leinster v Montpellier – Heineken Champions Cup – Pool A – RDS Arena

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen was pleased to see his side enjoy a free-scoring return to action in an 89-7 Heineken Champions Cup annihilation of Montpellier at the RDS Arena.

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Having been without a game for five weeks – after a frustrating run of Covid-19-affected fixtures – Cullen’s charges blew off the cobwebs by scoring 13 tries, including braces from Josh Van Der Flier, Dan Sheehan and Jack Conan, for their biggest-ever European winning margin.

Leinster were forced to hand Montpellier a 28-0 walkover before Christmas, giving them a tougher route to the round of 16, so Cullen was thrilled with the intent shown by his players on Sunday.

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Zach Mercer on Craig & Altrad
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“We’ve been waiting for this game for a while now. I think the guys applied themselves well over the last number of weeks, training-wise. It has been a frustrating period for all, but for us it was just about trying to control what we can,” he said.

“We know we’re sort of chasing the pool to a certain degree, so every point is so important for us now.

“We talked about the fact that we can’t afford any slip-ups going into the game and trying to maximise every single point from the game. I thought our guys did a pretty good job overall.”

Now on 10 points and safely nestled inside the top eight of Pool A, Leinster will once again be aiming for a maximum reward when they face Bath at the Recreation Ground next Saturday.

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Cullen added: “We’re still chasing in terms of trying to climb up the seedings in the pool and Bath won’t make it easy for us next week.

“They’re a very, very proud club and going to the Rec is always challenging. For us it’s making sure we’re just ready for that challenge now, because it’s a short turnaround.”

In the days and weeks leading up to this contest, the Montpellier squad had been severely affected by a coronavirus outbreak within their camp.

With 2019/20 champions Exeter making the trip to Altrad Stadium for a fourth-round encounter next Sunday, the club’s director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre is hopeful of welcoming some big-name players back into the fold.

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“More than 18 guys in my squad had Covid. We couldn’t play last week against Toulouse. Today we managed to have a team, but we changed the team three times during the week,” he admitted.

“We were struggling from the first minute to the last minute. I’ve coached for a long, long time and I’ve never lost by this score.

“I hope that next week I will have a lot of players back available.

“Today we finished with nearly all the back-line made up of Academy players against maybe the Irish international back-line. In the end it was men playing against boys.”

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