Cullen wary of Ulster threat
May 14, 2012
Leo Cullen has twice captained Leinster to Heineken Cup success, in 2009 and 2011 © Getty Images
Leinster captain Leo Cullen knows that his side will have to be at their most disciplined against Ulster in Saturday's Heineken Cup final, or run the risk of allowing Ruan Pienaar the rack up the points with his boot.
The Ulster scrum-half has proven to be a thorn in the side of teams that let their discipline slip, as he showed against Munster in the semi-final, when he scored 14 points with four penalties and a conversion in the 22-16 win.
"Coach Joe Schmidt drives our discipline pretty hard and it is something he has really pushed - giving away penalties can be hugely detrimental in the big games," Cullen said. "Against Clermont (Auvergne) it was our discipline that nearly killed us in the first half. We gave away four shots at goal and Brock James kicked the lot and we suddenly found ourselves 12-6 down. Our discipline was quite poor and that is something we have to work on and be aware of against Ulster."
It is the first ever final between two Irish sides and Leinster have twice beaten Ulster in the Rabo Pro 12 this season; 42-13 in Dublin and 16-8 at Ravenhill at the end of April, but Cullen says that is no guide to how the match will finish come Saturday.
"Ulster were the first Irish team to taste European success and they reached the knock-out stages last season so we know they have pedigree in Europe," he said. "When we played Ulster a few weeks ago they were missing a few key players and we scraped a win. It was pretty ugly as the pitch got very heavy up at Ravenhill and it was a bit of a dogfight. But Ulster have done amazingly well this season, signed some really quality players in the last few years and under coach Brain McLaughlin they have built up a really good squad."
A win for Leinster at Twickenham would mean that Cullen would become the first captain to lift the Heineken Cup three times after victories in 2009 and 2011. Currently he is level with Toulouse's Fabian Pelous, who lifted the trophy in 2003 and 2005. Like Pelous he also has memories of losing a final at Twickenham. Cullen was a second half substitute for Leicester Tigers in the 2007 final when they lost to London Wasps. Pelous meanwhile was Toulouse captain when the French side lost to the same opposition in 2004.
If Leinster do take the honours at the home of English rugby, they would also become the first side to win the Cup in successive years since Leicester won in 2001 and 2002.
"I do not have the happiest of memories of Twickenham - I lost a Heineken Cup final there in 2007 with Leicester - and hopefully we can produce the goods this time," Cullen said. "Losing a Heineken Cup final is not the nicest of feelings. Leinster are very hungry to succeed, there are a lot of very ambitious players in the squad and it would be great to achieve those back-to-back Heineken Cup titles but we are just focusing on the process and training hard on a daily basis. As long as we can control things that are within our own control we can go a long way to being successful."
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