‘There’s a bit of experimentation that goes into it’ – Leo Cullen explains 6/2 bench split
THE PRESENCE OF 14 World Cup players in Leinster’s starting line-up is headline-grabbing, yet their list of replacements for today’s United Rugby Championship clash with arch rivals Munster also provides plenty of intrigue.
Head coach Leo Cullen more often than not includes five forwards and three backs on his bench, yet has opted for a 6/2 split at the Aviva Stadium this evening.
This means that – instead of either Harry Byrne or Sam Prendergast being named as back-up to Byrne’s brother Ross at out-half – Ciaran Frawley will offer cover across a host of different positions, which in turn opens the door for Scott Penny to become the sixth forward amongst the Leinster reserves.
Although it isn’t as drastic as the 7:1 split that the province’s incoming senior coach Jacques Nienaber deployed with South Africa in their World Cup final win over New Zealand last month, Cullen explained yesterday why his match day selection will take this shape against the defending URC champions.
“Ciaran gives us a bit of versatility. There’s different selections that are going on at the moment and we’ve chopped and changed the team quite a bit over the last number of weeks. We started the season with a 6/2 split as well,” Cullen said.
“Between Scott and Josh [van der Flier], Josh has played on the wing for us before in the situation where he has come on. He can do a pretty good job there as well, if that situation does arise. Jamison [Gibson-Park] could play on the wing potentially as well. He has done it as well before.
“Again with the forwards, this time of year it can be attritional. We made the call earlier in the week to go with this piece. There’s a bit of experimentation that goes into it, but it’s better to see it at this point, I think.”
Despite having 30 senior international caps, Jordan Larmour is the outlier in Leinster’s first XV as the only man that wasn’t part of the Ireland squad at the World Cup. He has often missed out on a starting place for big club games since his last test appearance for Ireland against Japan in July 2021, but Larmour will hope to make an impression tonight as part of a back-three that also features Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien.
The Dubliner marked his first outing against Munster on St Stephen’s Day in 2017 with a superb solo try in a 34-24 victory for Leinster at Thomond Park and Cullen believes he is more than capable of lighting up today’s fixture.
“Players go through different parts to their careers. He was unlucky not to be involved in that World Cup group, but this is his chance now again to showcase exactly what he can do,” Cullen said.
“No better place, is there? A sell-out game and your inter-provincial rivals coming up against you. Hopefully it goes well, because he’s such a great guy ,Jordan. Hopefully you see that in terms of the performance part.”