Leo Cullen Explains His Decision To Drop Johnny Sexton, Sean O’Brien & Rob Kearney
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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen sprung a few surprises with his team selection this afternoon ahead of their PRO14 semi-final clash with Munster at the RDS Arena this weekend.
Johnny Sexton has been dropped to the bench, with Ross Byrne set to start at ten. Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien don’t even make the squad, with Jordan Larmour at fullback and Josh van der Flier coming straight back from injury to start at openside.
But what gives? Why have the three been dropped? For Sexton (and Scott Fardy), Cullen says it’s a mix of managing his squad and having some experience on the bench.
“There are a lot of different factors but ultimately for us, we have come off a huge final which we’ve lost, unfortunately,” Cullen said.
“And very similar in terms of how we tried to manage the group last year, we’re trying to get a bit of fresh energy into the team and it also gives us a lot of experience coming off the bench, particularly with Johnny and Scott Fardy.
“Having those two leaders to call on later in the game if required, so there’s a little bit of that in it.
“Ross has done well during the chances he’s had, played a lot of games for us this year, built up a huge amount of experience so another positive step for him as well.”
As for O’Brien and Kearney, it seems O’Brien isn’t fit for the weekend while Kearney is “ok” but wasn’t risked.
“Seány didn’t quite come through the week. We thought he would initially, he trained yesterday and didn’t come through that and that ruled him out.” Cullen added
“Hopefully he’ll be OK for next week if there is a next week.”
“Rob is similar, yeah, exactly. He’s actually OK now, he’s not a million miles away.”
“It’s just seeing about how he gets through the week, we want fit guys ready and everyone able for the challenge we’re going to face.”
“It’s important to have that respect for what they committed to last week and have respect for the opposition we’re facing this week.”
“I’m being a little vague here, hopefully everyone understands where I’m coming from.”