Leinster boss Leo Cullen looked to ease the excitement at Leinster’s superb performance against Wasps.
Murray Kinsella reports from the RDS
WHILE THE EIGHT-try demolition of Wasps will lead to plenty of gushing praise for this Leinster team and its various parts, they probably couldn’t have a better leader overseeing the next few days than Leo Cullen.
The former Leinster lock never gets too excited in the good times, nor too despondent when things don’t go so well.
After a truly joyous night for his players and their supporters, Cullen was as level-headed and calming as ever.
“We just need to be careful we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” said Cullen with a smile.
“We’ve played one game and no one else has played yet in Europe. There’s a lot of very good teams in Europe.
“It’s round one so no one’s going to get too excited at the moment.”
On an evening when even Johnny Sexton seemed to be caught up in the sweeping beauty of Leinster’s second-half performance – throwing a gorgeous between-the-legs pass in the build-up to one of James Lowe’s tries – Cullen was as soothing as ever.
Pleased, sure, but carried away? Never.
Cullen cited a difficult build-up for Wasps – injuries and Nathan Hughes’ suspension – and also the “big moment” that saw Lima Sopoaga sin-binned and resulting in Leinster scoring crucial tries either side of the half-time break.
The Leinster head coach spoke of how teams in Europe “only need to be a little bit off and you come unstuck and the score can get out of control,” citing Leinster’s harrowing experiences against Wasps three seasons ago as prime examples.
Scarily enough for the rest of the Heineken Champions Cup, Cullen reckons his team can improve on this.
“We were not quite at the standard we would like so there’s definitely scope for us to get better.”
Cullen will ensure Leinster come back to ground swiftly enough, but their title defence really couldn’t have got off to a better start.
They now have a nine-day turnaround before their round two clash away to Toulouse on Sunday week, while the injury profile doesn’t look bad.
Dan Leavy had to pull out before kick-off after he “felt his calf in the warm-up,” but Cullen feels it won’t be a “majorly significant” injury.
Cian Healy took a bang to the knee but again Cullen said it wasn’t anything major, while Rob Kearney “had a bit of tightness.”
Among the many reasons to be optimistic that there’s even more to come from Leinster is the ever-growing impact of James Lowe, who scored two tries against Wasps and was involved in plenty more magical moments.
“If you think back, James is here less than a year,” said Cullen. “It was tricky for him last season coming off a Super Rugby season with the Chiefs, going into a Mitre 10 season and that’s still on at the moment, so he had finished that.
“He got here and he had a fair bit of mileage on his body at that stage. We were up and running, so his body needed a bit of work. Our backroom team managed him pretty well during that period to make sure he had enough juice in the tank to get through the season.
“He did a lot of work in the off-season and we think we’ve got him in better shape now. James is someone that you could see a huge amount of potential in. There’s still parts of his game we think he can better again but he’s definitely a talent.”
So while the rest of us rave about Lowe, Cullen will look for improvements from the Kiwi wing.
Much like he will do with his team. The hype is for everyone else.
“The challenge of playing Toulouse away is certainly very different to playing Wasps, with the disruptions they’ve had this week, at the RDS,” said Cullen. “We’ll get ready to take on the four-time champions in their home ground.”
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