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14th May 2023

“That’s the call we made and we have to accept the consequences of it”

Rory Fleming

Leinster Munster Cullen

A dejected Leo Cullen was left ruing his cautious squad selection.

Challenging on both fronts had been the theme of the week’s build-up to Leinster’s URC semi final clash with provincial rivals Munster, and it was that balancing act which ultimately saw Leo Cullen’s side come undone.

Speaking in the post-match press conference following his team’s agonising 16-15 defeat, the Leinster head coach said “We talked about the challenge of trying to fight on two fronts and that’s unfortunately where we’ve come unstuck today”.

With the ominous challenge of Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle lurking over the mound that was this URC semi final, Cullen and his backroom staff opted to rest the majority of Leinster’s first choice XV in a bid to keep his frontliners fresh for the Champions Cup final.

Leinster Munster CullenLeinster opted to rest a number of big names ahead of next weekend’s European Cup final. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Conversely for Munster, this was their iteration of a European final, heading up the road to the Aviva Stadium for a last chance saloon encounter, knowing that a loss would end their season there and then.

Graham Rowntree, as expected, named as full strength a side as possible, and was buoyed by the presence of veterans Peter O’Mahony and Keith Earls who played through the pain barrier for the southern province.

“You have got to give Munster credit”, reflected Leo Cullen.

“They’ve a more settled group there, and that’s a call that we made. We have to accept the consequences of that now. Munster looked strong but we fought our way back in and got repelled and repelled on numerous occasions, so the fight amongst the lads was great, you couldn’t fault them for a second”.

The former Ireland second row didn’t hide behind any excuses either, sighting the fact that despite the weakened lineup, Munster were the better team on the day.

“We had some other opportunities where we were very close and had the ball around the try line but got barged off the breakdown. When you’re in semi finals, you need to be able to nail your opportunity. So we weren’t quite good enough today”.

Leinster Munster CullenTheir win leaves Munster 80 minutes from lifting their first trophy in over a decade. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Following his lamenting of his side’s inaccuracy within the Munster 22, Cullen added that he could see what an occasion it was for the Munster players on the day.

“And yeah Munster, you could see what it meant to them. You could see the crowd there at the end, and that’s something, going back to the occasion, where you’ve got two sets of players and it was always going to be a very tight game. I thought unfortunately though we just weren’t quite good enough”.

Having now failed for the second successive year to claim the newly-formed URC crown, Leinster’s revenge mission against O’Gara’s European champions becomes all the more important for the eastern province.

With their fourth and last Champions Cup victory coming back in Bilbao in 2018, Cullen and his side know that a third final defeat in five seasons would leave a sour taste after what has been a stellar season in terms of consistency in performance.

All eyes will now revert back to Lansdowne Road next Saturday, as an assured European classic awaits.

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