Cullen: “There’s still plenty to play for this season”
April 26, 2017 / 11:29 am / Conor Sharkey
Leo Cullen has experienced defeat in European semi-finals both as a coach and a player, and knows well how difficult it can be to shake off the disappointment of those defeats.
However, with a Guinness PRO12 semi-final on the horizon, and two tough games at home to Glasgow Warriors and away to Ulster before then, the head coach knows just how important it will be to get the squad fully focused on the challenges to come after Sunday’s loss against Clermont.
“I’ve lost semi-finals,” Cullen told the media on Monday.
“We lost a semi-final at home to Perpignan in 2003. I remember it like it was yesterday. It sticks with you for a long, long time. Especially when there’s things you feel you could’ve done better.
“Another one in Toulouse we lost in 2010 away in France. We weren’t good enough on the day, it was a very different story. I remember our 2012 semi-final against Clermont. Even after that game we were hugely frustrated because we felt that we had rode our luck a little bit in the fact that they got over our try-line at the end. Maybe it’s come back with a little bit of revenge.”
With the semi-final in the past, Cullen said the squad are now focused on learning from the game and working towards the PRO12 semi-final at the RDS on May 19.
“We went through [the Clermont game] today as a group. It’s still very raw, still very fresh in everyone’s minds, which is tough. The players did very well today (Monday) fronting up because we’ve a big game on Friday back in the RDS. It’s important we try to get it out of our systems as quick as we possibly can. It’s been a tough 24 hours.
“The players have been very open and very honest. They want to learn the lessons, they want to see how they can get better. One of the good things is we know we have another semi-final coming up in a few weeks, so we want to make sure we learn the lessons so we’re better when we’re in that scenario again.
“There’s still plenty to play for in the season. It’s exciting. We’ve got Glasgow on Friday, Ulster away the following Saturday. Unfortunately we’ll have a weekend off then. We’ll watch Clermont and Sarries battle it out. We’ll be watching that game with great interest – they’re the two best teams in Europe at the moment. We’ve to make sure we try and figure out, when it comes to taking them on again, what it takes to beat those two best teams in Europe. Which leads us in, hopefully, to a semi-final and a final beyond that.”
Before attention can totally shift to the home semi-final Leinster will have Glasgow and Ulster to contend with first.
Both are still in with a chance of finishing in the top four of the PRO12, and Gregor Townsend’s men will come to the RDS this Friday with two full weeks of preparation behind them.
“Glasgow have been waiting in the wings. It’s always dangerous coming up against a team like that that haven’t had a game at the weekend, they’ve been planning away while we’re distracted on something completely different.
“It’s a very short turnaround to this game. Some guys trained today, we’ll assess how guys have come through the game in terms of managing them. We’ll make some calls on guys and try and get the best XV we feel are going to represent the group and club as best as possible.
“We just need to get back to work now and back focusing on our game, how we can get better. That’s the way we are. After victories it’s the same. It just hurts more after losses.”
Welcome the team back to the RDS this Friday. Tickets for Leinster v Glasgow Warriors are on sale now from €20.