Cullen supports tough schedule
August 5, 2011
Leo Cullen will skipper Ireland in Saturday's Test against Scotland at Murrayfield © Getty Images
Leo Cullen has backed Ireland boss Declan Kidney's decision to arrange four warm-up games for his side ahead of next month's World Cup in New Zealand.
Approximately this time four years ago, Ireland were being put forward as 'dark horses' for the 2007 tournament in France. However, Eddie O'Sullivan's troops suffered a shock first-round exit after defeats by France and Argentina and extremely fortuitous victories over minnows Georgia and Namibia.
Many felt that Ireland had arrived at their Bordeaux based undercooked, having had just two warm-up games, against Scotland and Italy. As a result, Ireland have opted for four pre-tournament outings this time around: a trip to Murrayfield to face the Scots, a home-and-away double header with France before a meeting with England in Dublin.
It is still a risky fixture list, given the likely high intensity of the games, but Cullen feels that the Ireland management have got it right this time around and that the players will be suitably battle hardened by the time they kick off their World Cup campaign next month.
"The big difference now compared to 2007 is that there are four internationals," he said. "It's good that the team has the chance to get into their stride before the World Cup. The game is so much about momentum. Maybe more so for a forward than a back, but you want three games under your belt before you feel match fit."
However, while Saturday's clash with Scotland is primarily about raising fitness levels and shaking off any rustiness accrued during the off-season, Cullen insists that Ireland are travelling to Edinburgh intent on victory, mindful of the fact that they never really recovered from their warm-up defeat in Edinburgh in 2007.
"Everyone's familiar with the mindset of four years ago when the team went over there and really struggled to put in a decent performance," the Leinster lock said. "Scotland caught us cold a bit and that's something we've talked about this week.
"There are mixed expectations of the next month but everyone's looking forward to it. It's a strange situation to be in where you're playing a pre-season game but with lots at stake. There's not a huge amount at stake on the outcome of the game, but for the individuals there's a lot at stake.
"It depends on what way you look at it when it comes to judging if performance is more important than results in this sort of match. Individuals want to perform well but that's a lot easier to do if the team plays well. We have to have realistic expectations starting off, but everyone seems to have an edge in training."
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