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'The thing that is taking up most of my headspace at the minute'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Leinster have booked themselves the chance to win a fifth Heineken Champions Cup title by progressing to the May 28 final versus La Rochelle in Marseille, but it’s next Saturday’s URC derby against Munster at the Aviva Stadium that most dominated the thoughts of coach Leo Cullen coming out of the semi-final win over Toulouse

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The result of the URC derby is irrelevant to the Leinster status on the table – they have already sewn up a first-place finish and will take on the eight-place finisher (currently Edinburgh) in an early June quarter-final fixture in Dublin.

That knockout stage league game and the European final the weekend before are the Leinster priorities with the season now at the business end, but those matches weren’t dominating the thoughts of head coach Cullen when reflecting on their Champions Cup disposal of Toulouse. 

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More than 30,000 tickets have been sold for the Irish derby with Munster and what was on mind the mind of Cullen was how numerous players in the second string Leinster XV he is likely to select will be determined to put in as polished a performance as possible to give him a potential selection headache for the European decider the following weekend. 

“For our guys now it’s just trying to recover and make sure we look after ourselves,” he said in the wake of their 40-17 semi-final success. “We have a big game here next week against Munster, back to the URC because we want to put on a big performance next week. There are always different layers in the group. 

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“Some guys like Johnny (Sexton) have experienced lots of positive memories and a few tricky ones along the way that we all have had to go through. Then there is a younger group that is striving for success for the first time. Next week we will have some players that will be desperate to put their hand up. That is what we want to see from them. That is the thing probably occupying most of my thoughts at the moment, getting ready for a team that we know is very ambitious to be successful as well. 

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“They [Munster] have come out publicly and said they are desperate for trophies and I guess the investment they have brought in in terms of some World Cup winners in their squad as well. That is probably the thing that is taking up most of my headspace at the minute because that is where our minds go to, the next challenge. 

“We will have a group of players that will get to run out here next week and then we turn the page to Marseille and we know we have a quarter-final in the URC the week after. It’s an unbelievably exciting period of games.

“The group have been pretty well managed, we should be fresh and raring to go. We picked up some bangs and knocks, hopefully none of them are show stoppers. It’s just about getting exciting about the next challenge now. It’s not Marseille, it’s the Aviva next Saturday.” 

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