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Leinster verdict on beating Munster, 'glaring' Ringrose incident

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Saturday night’s 21-16 victory over Irish rivals Munster wasn’t enough to edge Leinster to the top of the URC table after six rounds of matches, but their results are becoming ominously good ahead of next month’s start to the Champions Cup.

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Of the 40 clubs across the top three leagues – URC, Top 14 and Premiership – only England’s Saracens can currently match Leinster’s five-match winning streak.

There was criticism about the role Garry Ringrose defensively played in their concession of an early Munster try, but head coach Leo Cullen let his co-captain off the hook and instead dwelt on the positives a fortnight out from their December 10 trip to La Rochelle, the Ronan O’Gara-led French club that has beaten them three seasons on the bounce in Europe, including the past two finals.

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Reflecting on when he felt was “a great spectacle” due to the level of commitment exhibited by both sides in front of a bumper 50,000 attendance, Cullen gave Ireland midfielder Ringrose a free pass for blatantly missing Simon Zebo inside the Munster half, a slip that ignited the break which culminated in a Craig Casey try and had visiting supporters believing they could repeat last May’s URC semi-final triumph over Leinster.

“When someone makes a decision to shoot out of the line which is okay, there is full license for him to do that,” said Cullen in relation to the latest defensive error by the Leinster player whose missed tackle statistics often don’t read well.

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“There is definitely a little bit of coverage we can be better at for sure early in the game, but there are a lot of parts of performance we can be better at. That’s just one specific piece. Obviously, it results in a try so it becomes a bit more glaring, but that was the only try we conceded in the game.”

Cullen, who still wasn’t sure of the exact date when the Springboks head coach, Jacques Nienaber, will join him to begin on the Leinster managerial ticket, had used the match-up with Munster and the previous week’s fixture against Scarlets to bleed a huge chunk of his Ireland World Cup contingent back into the side.

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How did he feel his reunited team was now gelling ahead of a December schedule featuring away games at Connacht, La Rochelle and Munster with a match at home to Sale also on their radar? “I have gone off that term a bit, Irish guys,” he suggested. “The Leinster guys, they are all back together now. We are trucking along okay.

“We have used a good chunk of players in the first six rounds and so when you use a good chunk of players we are probably a bit off in terms of cohesion. If you think a World Cup squad is 33 players and people are on about the different combinations you would use, we have used 45, something like that, over the first six rounds.

“It’s a good chunk of players and there is still some more to come back into the mix as well. We are up and running. We had a disappointing start against Glasgow, defensively we had plenty of things to work on from that day. We conceded five tries that day, and we have won five games since then. We are far from perfect but we’re building.

“We had a good week. I put a bit on the players this week because we were down in Carlow and Kilkenny (for open training), so there was a big demand on the players and if we had lost that game (to Munster), people would look at me and go, ‘Here, what were we doing that there?’ But there is a much broader piece there in terms of trying to grow support.

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“I thought it was a really positive few days down there. Like, it’s an unbelievably positive crowd out there (at the Aviva). That is to be celebrated. To have 50,000 people at a round-six game in this competition is unbelievable.

“Why have 50,000 people turned up? Because it’s a full-blooded game with two sets of players that are going full tilt. Yes, there is the odd mistake in the game, of course there is, but they are all human beings at the end of the day and us as coaches, it’s how we prepare them going into the game as well. But it’s a great advert for the game, a brilliant advert I think.”

The coach didn’t have an update on the seriousness of the injury that forced out-half Ross Byrne off early, but he had fulsome praise for Ciaran Frawley’s effort off the bench. “It’s arm-related. Hopefully, it’s not too bad. Ciaran stepped in well. We wanted to see what that looks like and he was excellent, controlled the game.

“Even though he started the season playing 15 for us, the way those roles are, particularly with someone like Ciaran, he is comfortable stepping up as that first receiver, that interplay between your 10, 12, 15, so it is great to have that second ball player there.

“He has been excellent for us this season and hopefully that will be the case going forward. He stepped in, kicked his goals. It was a pretty accomplished performance from him.”

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