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If you were relying on Google to get the full picture of my relationship with Leo Cullen, you would be a long time digging.
One incident inevitably dominates the search results; there is little mention of the 13 Tests we played together in green, the many Ireland ‘A’ caps we earned in tandem, or the numerous other provincial battles we fought over the years.
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You’d swear the one and only time our paths crossed was in that maul at Croke Park in 2009. The truth is, we used to butt heads a lot on the field; he was a hardy second-row who could give as good as he got. I rarely took a backward step either.
It was like that between Munster and Leinster back then. They couldn’t stand the sight or sound of us; talk of their rivals as European champions was akin to nails on the blackboard.
I tussled with Leo and many other men in blue, that’s the way it was, it was never personal. You couldn’t allow it to be because you’d often be holed up together in international camps a few weeks or months after the interpros.
As team-mates we always got on well. Leo was nearly always measured. I envied people like that who could keep their emotions in check. The beauty of that being your natural disposition ensures that when you do lose it, others are certain to listen.
His progression to coaching made sense; his bravery, leadership skills and rugby brain are as valuable off the pitch as they were on it.
Some of Leo’s other key traits, however, such as humility, his incredible work ethic and ability to see the bigg
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