Calm Leo Cullen embracing his new challenge

The former Leinster captain is adjusting to his new role as forwards’ coach with the province

Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen. “I would have watched a lot of coaches pretty closely over the last number of years.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen. “I would have watched a lot of coaches pretty closely over the last number of years.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 01:00

Some players like to walk away from the game completely on retirement, and stay gone. Others are similarly inclined, if of a mind to return one day. Others still prefer a middle ground of perhaps the odd coaching session or joining the increasingly popular media punditry, whereas some like to remain actively involved.

Akin to Anthony Foley in Munster, Leo Cullen was always more likely to be one of those who made the immediate transition from player to coach.

Amongst all the positives of crossing the threshold from playing to coaching, one of the most enjoyable, Leo Cullen freely admits, was avoiding the rigours of yet another pre-season.

“It’s definitely been less physically demanding,” he admits with a contented smile. “Not putting my body through that has been enjoyable.”

That said, he reckons avoiding the six-month slog through the depths of winter will be even better.

Fledgling days

It can be a tricky one, crossing that line between player and coach, not least when bridging the divide within the same squad.

“Definitely I’d say the players do look at me differently. But I try to be a pretty similar person. I suppose the biggest change is that I go in the front door and I head straight upstairs and open up my computer, and start watching rugby games for the day, as opposed to going into the dressing room and throwing your gear bag down, heading to the gym, or the physio room – whatever the case may be,” he says dryly, in self-deprecating reference to his latter year or two.

Admittedly these are fledgling days, but Cullen appears remarkably relaxed and sanguine about whether he will be any good at this gig, or whether it really is for him. He has talked to a few coaches, but is happy to draw on his personal experiences of working with Michael Cheika, Joe Schmidt or Matt O’Connor, and the various assistants who have worked with them.

“I would have watched a lot of coaches pretty closely over the last number of years. You’re always trying to pick up bits and pieces here and there. Time will tell if I’m any use at this job or not, or whether I’ll enjoy it or not, when it comes to the games.”

“So it’s a little bit of stepping into the unknown but I’ve been pretty fortunate in that I’ve sat in the coaches’ box with Leinster’s last three coaches at various stages. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve had a decent enough look at things without there being necessarily that much attention on me. But as I said, only time will tell,” concluded Cullen with a laugh.

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