Leo Cullen is likely to juggle Leinster’s considerable playing resources for their two-game trip to South Africa knowing that when they return they will face Leicester in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Welford Road a week away. later.
A squad of around 32 players will be named this morning ahead of their game against the Sharks in Durban next Saturday with the likelihood of there being a further rotation for their game against the Stormers a week later.
Most of those involved in the draw with Connacht are likely to rest with one eye on the Tigers, so to speak, as Cullen returns to the club where he spent two seasons from 2005-07.
The Premiership leaders have been revitalized in recent seasons under Steve Borthwick after successive 11th places domestically and have won 22 of 25 games played this season.
“They have a strong line-up maul obviously with the identity of their coach, Steve Borthwick, who has been strongly tipped to succeed Eddie [Jones].
“It’s probably a reflection of the work he’s done there in a reasonably short period of time. He definitely seems to be the manager of the moment, a lot of people are even calling him ahead of the World Cup, so we’ll see how it goes for him.
“I have such fond memories of my time there and a lot of respect for the people who are there. A grounded band, I think it’s fair to say. I know they’ve struggled over the past few years, but when it comes to what they’ve delivered this year, they have quite a bit of power.
“Even looking at the few games they’ve had against Connacht where they’ve mixed and matched their squads in those two games. The power of some full-backs, you think of Nadolo who’s there, very experienced half-backs at Ben Youngs and George Ford.”
Ideally, beyond those next three games and their rearranged URC draw with Munster at the Aviva Stadium, Leinster will want to have five more knockout matches by reaching the finals of both competitions, which will continue to test their resources.
“It’s tough for a team – the recovery, a bit of luck, the way injuries pass. It’s dusting off and getting ready for the next one. We have some time to plan this quarter-final.
With the timely returns of Andrew Porter and Ronan Kelleher for their second leg win over Connacht, Leinster are not far from complete and, encouragingly, James Ryan was running as a water boy last Friday. .
“He’s been training for the past few weeks, so that’s another positive step,” Cullen said.
A Connacht squad of 28 players and support staff flew from Dublin to Johannesburg ahead of next Saturday’s game with the Lions, after which they headed to Durban in preparation for their game against the Sharks on Saturday April 30 .
With just three URC games remaining in their season, Matthew Burke and the Brive duo of Abrahama Papali’i and Conor Oliver of the ’23’ on duty last Friday were included, and were complemented by Tom Daly, Alex Wootton, Shayne Bolton, Greg McGrath, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Niall Murray, Jordan Duggan and Paul Boyle
“It’s been tough the past few weeks,” admitted Jack Carty following their 82-41 aggregate loss to Leinster.
“You take losses a little more personally when you lead the guys. Yeah, definitely, as a captain, you kind of have to wear it. It is certainly more difficult.
Andy Friend made eight new signings for next season and said: “We hope to have one more. But that’s enough, I’m really happy with our team. This was our message to our boys.
“We have the talent. We just have to make sure that we cultivate the talent individually. It depends on us as coaches but also as players. It’s up to them to cultivate their own talent and make sure they deliver and bring out the best in themselves.
“In the end, it’s just up to me. If it’s not correct, I need to take a look at what I’m doing. So that’s my big goal.