Cullen called up for injured O'Callaghan
February 4, 2010
Cullen shares a joke with second row partner Paul O'Connell during training this week © PA Photos
Leinster lock Leo Cullen has been drafted into the Ireland team for Saturday's Six Nations opener against Italy following a knee injury to Donncha O'Callaghan.
O'Callaghan has been struggling with the injury sustained on Heineken Cup duty against Northampton two weeks ago. The 30-year-old, capped 58 times and a veteran of four Lions Tests, was included in the team on Tuesday only to be ruled out after undergoing a fitness test yesterday.
O'Callaghan is the third player made unavailable for the tournament opener because of injury with Jonathan Sexton and Stephen Ferris suffering from a dead leg and knee problem respectively. Munster forward Donnacha Ryan, who has won three caps, fills Cullen's place among the substitutes
Ireland defence coach Les Kiss expects O'Callaghan to be available for the crucial trip to France on Saturday week. "I think it's about five years since he missed a game so it's tough for him. He's done all he can to be ready it but it's not to be," Kiss told RTE.ie. "We're aiming for France obviously. The rehab the medics have done over the last 10 days has been phenomenal - it's come on fantastically. He'll be thereabouts."
While the loss of O'Callaghan is a significant blow, Cullen is a capable deputy. The 32-year-old has 20 caps and led Leinster to Heineken Cup glory last season, though Saturday will be his first Six Nations appearance since March 2003.
Ireland team to play Italy in the Six Nations Championship on Saturday, February 6, at Croke Park (1430):
R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); R O'Gara (Munster), T O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), J Flannery (Munster), J Hayes (Munster); L Cullen (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster), K McLaughlin (Leinster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: R Best (Ulster), T Court (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster), P Wallace (Ulster), K Earls (Munster).
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength
'Nothing can prepare you for the noise of the Millennium Stadium though, you just can't hear anything." Tom Hamilton talks to Cory Allen