Rugby Union

Leinster need to improve for Toulouse semi-final - Leo Cullen

Leinster's James Lowe attempts to get clear during the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final match at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium, Leicester Pictue by PA

LEINSTER director of rugby Leo Cullen insists there is plenty of scope for his tournament favourites to improve following their Heineken Cup quarter-final win over Leicester at the weekend.

Leinster amassed a 20-0 interval lead at Welford Road and, while the Tigers fought back in the second-half through tries by Chris Ashton and Nic Dolly, it proved an insurmountable deficit.

Thirteen of Leinster's starting XV were Ireland internationals and it showed as the leaders of the United Rugby Championship thumped the team that sits at the summit of the Gallagher Premiership.

It exposed the gulf in class between English clubs and Europe's heavyweights as Leinster now face Toulouse in a semi-final between the two most successful sides in Europe, but Cullen insists there is still room for improvement.

"We had really good intent in the first-half in attack and in defence. We put Tigers under a fair bit of pressure when they had the ball," he said.

"In the second-half, they threw the kitchen sink at us. It didn't feel comfortable in the second-half from our point of view, but we're delighted to get a win. There was a bit of risk because some of our guys haven't played for the last couple of weeks and were they going to be a little shy in terms of that battle hardened piece.

"But we've got through to the next round and hopefully we'll be in better shape going into next weekend. We're going to be better. It's such a massive challenge up against Toulouse, five times champions. Hopefully we'll have a big crowd at the Aviva."

Meanwhile, head coach Johann van Graan was proud of his Munster side despite being knocked out by Toulouse in the cruellest of circumstances.

An intense 100 minutes of rugby failed to separate the sides as their absorbing Aviva Stadium quarter-final ended in a 24-24 draw and a penalty shoot-out was required to decide who would advance.

Antoine Dupont (two), Thomas Ramos and Romain Ntamack landed their kicks to give Toulouse a 4-2 shootout win and a return trip to Dublin.

Van Graan, though, said: "Firstly, I'm incredibly proud. Today was what Munster rugby is about. To lose it like that, that's unfortunately sport. That's the way the rules are. Somebody's got to kick it over and somebody's got to miss.

"If ever there's a day to sum up Munster rugby, it's today. A community of 40,000 people travelling. Everybody associated with Munster rugby will be incredibly proud of the 23 guys that stood up and fought today."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access



Rugby Union