Young guns ensure Leinster in positive mood for the trip to Bath
Nine-try thumping of outclassed Dragons augurs well for Cullen’s dual champions
Leinster’s Jimmy O’Brien scores a try against Dragons during the Guinness Pro 14 clash at Rodney Parade, Newport. Photograph: Photograph: Alex Davidson/Inpho
Dragons 10 Leinster 59
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
DRAGONS: J Williams, J Rosser (A Warren 56), T Morgan, J Sage, H Amos, J Tovey (A Robson 66), R Williams (T Knoyle 61), R Bevington (A Jarvis 72), R Hibbard (E Dee 47), L Fairbrother (L Brown 40), R Landman, L Evans (C Hill, 40), H Keddie (R Moriarty 47), A Wainwright, O Griffiths.
LEINSTER: H Keenan, A Byrne, J O’Brien, C O’Brien, D Kearney (T Daly 64), R Byrne (C Frawley 70), J Gibson-Park (P Patterson 66), E Byrne (P Dooley )52, J Tracy (B Bryne 52), M Bent (A Porter 48), R Molony, S Fardy (captain), J Murphy (M Deegan 52), S Penny (M Kearney 62), C Doris.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)