Rugby Leinster face ‘stern challenge’ against Northampton, says Leo Cullen

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Northampton Saints v Leinster, Franklin’s Garden, Saturday, 1pm (Live Virgin Media, Channel Four and BT Sport 2)

After a week of reviews, comment and counter-comment about the World Cup, the 15 Irish players in this Leinster squad can hardly claim to have gone unaffected by all the chatter. Ask any of them and they’ll say the release of a massive European game on English soil is just the tonic.

This is true. Nothing focuses the mind like the thump of a powerful Northampton pack that currently sits on top of the Premiership. Be sure that Stuart Lancaster has had Leinster players swotting up on the slick style delivered straight from the Wellington finishing school of legendary All Blacks like Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Conrad Smith.

“With Chris Boyd’s background with the Hurricanes most recently and just the attacking mindset that team has, it paints a picture of a head coach that would lead a very attacking-oriented setup and team,” said Leinster coach Leo Cullen.

“In terms of the personal I think they’ve made some great signings. They’ve got that mix of real top end experience, guys who have done it on the biggest stage plus lots of very good young players. It adds to a really good youth and blend in terms of youth and experience.

Danger

“We know it’s going to be a real stern challenge for us.”

This is and isn’t true. For all the razor-sharp danger coming from a halfback pairing of Cobus Reinach and Dan Biggar – Springbok and Welsh World Cup heroes – there are glaring absentees like the Franks brothers from New Zealand, Owen and Ben, while any team is poorer for the unavailability of Courtney Lawes.

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