Young guns put Le­in­ster in a pos­i­tive mood for the trip to Bath

Nine-try thump­ing of out­classed Dragons au­gurs well for Cullen’s dual cham­pi­ons Cullen wary of inside knowl­ege Dempsey can bring to Bath’s prepa­ra­tion

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby -

Leo Cullen is wary of Bath’s inside man as Le­in­ster switch their fo­cus to wrestling back con­trol of their Heineken Cham­pi­ons Cup pool next week­end.

The Eu­ro­pean and Pro14 cham­pi­ons gave them­selves the per­fect prepa­ra­tion for the crunch dou­ble-header with a nine try thump­ing of the Dragons on Satur­day night.

The vic­tory sent them 15 points clear of the Scar­lets in the do­mes­tic con­fer­ence, but the prov­ince are still play­ing catch-up to Toulouse in Pool One.

Cullen will wel­come back his front­line stars for the trip to the Rec on Satur­day af­ter the kids came good once again at Rod­ney Pa­rade.

Bath will be re­ly­ing heav­ily on the knowl­edge of for­mer Le­in­ster star and coach Gir­van Dempsey, who was brought in to rein­vig­o­rate their at­tack at the start of the season. And Cullen is ex­pect­ing his tac­tics to be picked apart by his old team­mate ahead of their Rec re­union.

“We will watch Bath’s game against Sale very closely, and they have a coach in Gir­van Dempsey who knows us very well which is al­ways dan­ger­ous,” said Cullen. “Gir­van has worked very closely with us over a num­ber of years and I’m sure he’ll have built him­self up for this game.

“He’s so metic­u­lous in his prepa­ra­tion, he’s been amaz­ing in de­vel­op­ing some of the younger guys you see out there to­day and the work he’s put in through the academy has been bril­liant.

“We’ll keep a keen eye on them to­mor­row and see how they’re play­ing. We’ve def­i­nitely seen some fa­mil­iar traits in their play­ing style so it should be a great match.”

Johnny Sex­ton and co were not needed for the trip to South Wales as Leo Cullen’s sec­ond string stood up and showed their ruth­less streak in a bonus-point 59-10 tri­umph.

Or­ches­trated

Ross Byrne or­ches­trated the vic­tory to stake his claim for a place in the start­ing XV for the Cham­pi­ons Cup clash with Bath with a near fault­less per­for­mance as he set up two scores for Dave Kear­ney and one for full-back Hugo Keenan.

Scott Penny and Scott Fardy made sure Le­in­ster went in at half-time with a com­fort­able 16-point ad­van­tage be­fore Kear­ney wrapped up the bonus-point three min­utes into the sec­ond half.

Cae­len Doris, Hugo Keenan, Bryan Byrne and Jimmy O’Brien com­pleted the win with

15 Le­in­ster lead Con­fer­ence B by 15 points af­ter the week­end’s matches

a late dou­ble to make it six wins in-a-row against the Welsh re­gion.

The per­for­mances of out­half Byrne and cen­tre Conor O’Brien were to the fore dur­ing the rout at Rod­ney Pa­rade. And Cullen ad­mits his job may not be as sim­ple as just throw­ing his Ire­land stars back into the start­ing XV.

“We’ll have a lot back at the game and dig in on how some of the in­di­vid­u­als per­formed,” added Cullen. “There will be some tough de­ci­sions to be made but that’s what we wanted. We want the young guys to chal­lenge the more es­tab­lished guard, and they were ex­cel­lent this week­end.

“Bath have so much qual­ity and depth in their squad, they have a lot of very ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers and the Rec is a tough place to go.

Next gen­er­a­tion

“The trip to South Africa was re­ally good for this group. We went away, spent a lot of tome with each other and we brought in a few young guys for some time away and they learned and un­der­stood what we’re try­ing to do as a group.”

Le­in­ster’s next gen­er­a­tion were led for the Dragons trip by Aus­tralian elder states­man Scott Fardy.

The sea­soned in­ter­na­tional is at­tempt­ing to join an ex­clu­sive club of back-to-back Eu­ro­pean cham­pi­ons, and the Bath fix­ture was the kind of pres­ti­gious fix­ture that helped lure him to North­ern Hemi­sphere rugby.

“You want guys putting pres­sure on Leo and the old guys want to be pushed as well,” he said. “We’ll fo­cus on train­ing now and get­ting things right for Bath.

“The Rec is a tough place to go and we have to make sure we pre­pare well.I spent a bit of time in Bath dur­ing the Rugby World Cup, its a his­toric sta­dium and they have a great his­tory in the Eu­ro­pean Cup so it’s a chal­lenge we’re re­ally look­ing for­ward to.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ALEX DAVID­SON/INPHO

Le­in­ster’s Jimmy O’Brien scores a try against Dragons dur­ing the Guin­ness Pro 14 clash at Rod­ney Pa­rade on Satur­day.■

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