If the result goes Leinster’s way in Glasgow on Saturday night, Leo Cullen better hope that more than a single keg of the sponsor’s brew will be on tap for his squad otherwise it won’t be much of a party.
Such is the number of players Cullen has called on during his province’s PRO14 campaign, there wouldn’t be much Guinness to go around if all 57 players who have appeared this term lined up for a celebratory drink.
It’s quite the startling statistic underlining exactly the level of resources that go into repeatedly reaching these league finals.
This is Leinster’s eighth league decider in 10 seasons, their third in four seasons with Cullen at the helm, and the pity about what will unfold on Saturday at Celtic Park is that the XV the coach will start with will be very different from the XV of the players who have mostly filled the one to 15 shirts during their 22 matches before this latest final.
If selection for the showpiece was undertaken solely on the basis of rewarding the individuals who have most played their part in the club getting to the final, the contingent of star names would be few and far between.
When you have score 9?7? tries in a season there are bound to a few corkers ?
Here are five of @leinsterrugby's best from this season ?
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) May 22, 2019
The pattern would continue in the back line. Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne would be the half-backs, the midfield would consist of Rory O’Loughlin alongside Conor O’Brien, while Dave Kearney, James Lowe and Adam Byrne would head the queue for the back three jerseys.
Cullen is the sort of guy appreciatively conscious of the large-scale manpower that goes into ensuring the level of competitiveness remains high at the province which consistently provides the majority of players to Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad.
The 'new model' athletes fresh off Leinster's academy production line set to stalk the PRO14 https://t.co/bRJeWCv7FY
— liam heagney (@heagneyl) January 26, 2019
It’s no easy trick trying to maintain the consistency in team performance when using 44 first-team players bolstered by 13 from the academy. But somehow Leinster manage to keep churning out the results that keeps the supporters cheering along in their droves – over 12,000 season tickets are already sold for next season.
The contribution of his enormous squad was something that was on Cullen’s mind in the aftermath of their home semi-final win over Munster last Saturday, the coach highlighting: “Why are we here in the RDS? We are here because we have used a lot of players to get us in the situation where we actually have enough points to finish top of the conference, so all the work that goes in with all the players in the wider squad to get us here.”
Over 12,000 Season Ticket sold!
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 22, 2019
It was a generous acknowledgement he soon reiterated when addressing supporters at a function elsewhere in the stadium some time later, and these contributions by their squad players have been further highlighted in the statistical information doing the rounds ahead of the Celtic Park final.
Of the eight categories listed by the PRO14, five are topped by players unlikely to be starting on Saturday. Doris is listed as Leinster’s main ball carrier in the league, doing so on 167 occasions. Dave Kearney has made 661 metres, Gibson-Park has had 15 clean breaks, Deegan has tackled 212 times and Porter has won nine turnovers.
Only in defenders beaten, topped by Jordan Larmour on 38, and lineouts won and lineouts steals, both headed by Fardy on 47 and six, do we come across names that will definitely be in the starting XV versus Warriors.
It’s all information that reinforces precisely how rugby has very much become a squad game, with Leinster nearly fielding four full teams of different players during this 2018/19 league.
LEINSTER’S 2018/19 PRO14 APPEARANCES
BACK ROW (10) – Max Deegan (12+8), Caelan Doris 11+3), Josh Murphy (11+1), Rhys Ruddock (9+1), Jack Conan (6), Dan Leavy (5+1), Josh van der Flier (5+1), Scott Penny (5+1), Sean O’Brien (3+1), Will Connors (1+1);
BACK THREE (10) – Dave Kearney (10+1), James Lowe (10), Adam Byrne (9+1), Joe Tomane (8+3), Fergus McFadden (8+1), Barry Daly (7+2), Rob Kearney (7), Jordan Larmour (7), Hugo Keenan (3), Jack Kelly (0+1).
WATCH: The RugbyPass behind the scenes documentary on the 2018 Guinness PRO14 final that was won by Leinster against Scarlets in Dublin
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