Leo Cullen and Leinster’s Champions Cup love affair continues

Racing coach Laurent Labit: ‘Well, he has the Irish team so we are just a poor man’s team’

Leo Cullen and John Fogarty celebrate Leinster’s win over Racing 92. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leo Cullen and John Fogarty celebrate Leinster’s win over Racing 92. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

If only Laurent Labit knew the creative differences that regularly occur between Leinster and the IRFU.

(Joey Carbery and Jordi Murphy were, understandably, whisked through the mixed zone). The Racing 92 coach was annoyed with the pre-match assertion by Leo Cullen that this “clash of styles” has always been unfair on Leinster as they must combat Jacky Lorenzetti millions (earned from his real estate empire).

“As Leo Cullen said before the game we have a rich man’s team,” said Labit after the 15-12 loss. “Well, he has the Irish team so we are just a poor man’s team.”

Fair point. Besides Isa Nacewa, a Fijian international, and Scott Fardy, who played blindside for the Wallabies in the 2015 World Cup final, the other 13 players in this Leinster XV featured in the recent Grand Slam success. As did five of the bench.

Racing were also cursed by injury to their best player, Maxime Machenaud, and their All Black and Springbok outhalves were cruelly taken away from them.

“Of course it was difficult [losing]Dan Carter yesterday in the warm-up and then Patrick Lambie’s injury after two minutes.”

All told, it probably ended fair and square.

“During the game I was remembering when Castres won the Top 14. That was flashing through my mind because the two Laurents [Labit and Travers] were coaching that team - they were just so aggressive at the ruck and Teddy Iribaren just pinned us back the whole time.

Donnacha Ryan injured his shoulder in the early stages of Racing 92’s defeat to Leinster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Donnacha Ryan injured his shoulder in the early stages of Racing 92’s defeat to Leinster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

“It was tough to watch that last 20 minutes. Torturous in many ways.

“It was an incredible feeling in the end, perhaps made more special by the pain we had to go through watching that.”

Cullen added, “I think obsessed is probably the word I’d use about this tournament. I am very lucky. The club is very supportive of me.”

“We have a love affair with this tournament.”

And after six years of Toulon and Saracens - also funded by wealthy benefactors - dominating the gerrymandered European landscape, Leinster and the trophy have renewed their vows in the romantic backdrop of Bilbao.

Spare a thought for the Munster man who goes home to Paris with nothing but a painful shoulder.

“From our point of view, we just gave away a silly penalty after we had gone three points ahead and then they got a penalty off the second lineout,” said Donnacha Ryan. “It was very disappointing from a discipline point of view. We went really hard at them in the breakdown which is a strength of theirs. And it was disappointing to give away those two or three penalties at the end.

“You’re not looking into lads’ eyes. It was tit-for-tat, it was a strange game, a real pressure game and the ball was greasy with the bit of rain. Games hinge on small margins and unfortunately we didn’t come out the right end.”

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