Leo Cullen ‘bitterly disappointed’ for Andrew Porter after Lions dream ended

Prop suffered toe injury during Rainbow Cup defeat to Glasgow

Andrew Porter suffered a toe injury in the Rainbow Cup game away to Glasgow last Friday. File photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Andrew Porter suffered a toe injury in the Rainbow Cup game away to Glasgow last Friday. File photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

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The vagaries of Leo Cullen’s juggling act in the Rainbow Cup – giving game time to his quartet of Lions, as well as both those on standby and in the frame for Ireland’s summer Tests while also affording farewells to retiring stalwarts – were laid bare by the events of Friday night in Glasgow.

Leinster, again after more rotation, were obliged to chase tries in their need for a bonus point. They scored two but had two more by Hugo Keenan both disallowed by referee Frank Murphy which, coupled with his 15-6 penalty count in the home team’s favour, contributed to the 15-12 defeat which ended Leinster’s hopes of reaching the final.

Worse than that, however, was the news that Andrew Porter suffered a toe injury during his 35-minute stint as a replacement which has ruled him out of the Lions’ scheduled tour to South Africa, with England’s Kyle Sinckler called up as his replacement.

“We are all bitterly disappointed for Ports,” said Cullen. “He has worked incredibly hard to get this opportunity and it was richly deserved.

“He is fortunate that he has youth on his side and will hopefully have another shot at a Lions tour again but that doesn’t take away from his disappointment now.”

Cullen admitted the timing of their opening game against Munster, a week before their Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against La Rochelle, always had them behind the cue ball, although he didn’t accept his squad had suffered a Euro hangover.

“I thought the guys picked themselves up well after losing that La Rochelle game. Six days later you go away to Galway and put up a large score of 50 points and there was lots of good stuff in the Ulster game.

“We talked after that game about not being really accurate enough but that was at home, you come away from home and you kind of get sucked into another scrappy dog fight, and they’re the things we need to learn from.

“If we are in that type of game we just need to understand how we need to get control and order back so that we can impose ourselves even with the stop-start nature of the game.”

Next Friday’s seasonal farewell will at least be notable for having family and friends among the permitted 1,200 attendance for the first time in 19 games at the RDS or the Aviva dating back to February 2020.

“There’ll definitely be some changes next week, exactly how many I’m not sure yet but we’ll have some fresh players coming in. That presents challenges because you’re trying to build cohesion all over again,” said Cullen.

“That’s the thing, it’s been a bit stop-start and disjointed but it is what it is. We haven’t been good enough unfortunately in this Rainbow Cup but next week we want to put on a good show for two main factors really, players finishing up and having a crowd.

“Like, how amazing would it be to have 1,200 people up in the RDS and just a stepping stone for greater things and we get back to some semblance of normality. It’s been a crazy year on so many fronts.

“Today was our 30th game since the restart, so to have some sort of a crowd at the RDS next week is hugely exciting. Our guys just need to dust themselves off now, turn their attention to a new challenge and it’s back playing in front of our fans which I think is going to be great.”

Glasgow loudly celebrated their four points with a win which put them top of the table on 19 points, but that will most likely not be sufficient, with Benetton (on 18 points) assured of reaching the north v south final if they beat the Ospreys away next Saturday evening.

The previous evening Munster (15 points) will look to give themselves a chance of reaching the final in Treviso a week later with a bonus-point win in Zebre.

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