Cullen determined to avoid player drain to other provinces

By Brendan O'Brien

Leinster coach Leo Cullen has stated the club's determination to do everything within their powers to persuade players that have been “targeted” by other clubs to remain in Dublin with the reigning European and PRO14 champions.

It was announced earlier this week that scrum-half Nick McCarthy will leave Dublin for Munster as of next season, following on from the likes of Joey Carbery and Andrew Conway who have previously swapped the capital for Limerick.

With Jordi Murphy moving north to Belfast and a new chapter of his career with Ulster, there is a clear sense of Leinster players choosing to play with other provinces in the hope of gaining more game time at club level and, in cases, improve their international prospects.

Leinster are the best-stocked side in the country, maybe in European club rugby as a whole, and juggling such enviable resources is a challenge for Cullen and his management team. So too the bid to keep players at the club when opportunities arise elsewhere.

“Yeah, definitely,” said Cullen today ahead of their Heineken Champions Cup trip to Toulouse this weekend.

“Everyone here at the club is conscious of the fact that there is a lot of Leinster players being targeted maybe? I'm not sure what the best way to describe it is.

“We talked about it in the lead-in to the Munster game a few weeks ago: how Munster had changed quite significantly. There was a big South African influence there, even some young guys coming into the academy, and there are a good few Leinster guys down there.

“It is something the club are definitely very conscious of. In many ways it's a compliment to a lot of the work that goes on behind the scenes here, whether that is at schools and club level or at the academy and sub-academy. The work that goes on is still very important.”

Cullen admitted he was sad to see McCarthy, a product of the Leinster academy, go but claimed to be unaware if this was the latest example of a move helped along by the IRFU who are keen for the player pool to be spread out a tad more evenly for the benefit of the national side.

“We need to create an environment that players want to stay in, be successful and provide everything for them here. That's the thing that is in our control, that we make sure that Leinster is the best place to play rugby and hopefully the players are happy.

“We understand that it is competitive and that every now and then someone will make a decision but, for the most part, we want to keep players and have them go on and play at the highest level. Hopefully, we have shown that over the last few seasons.”

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