‘We’ll see how it all filters out’: Cullen hopes Leinster can keep hold of Lancaster
‘We’ll see how it all filters out’: Cullen hopes Leinster can keep hold of Lancaster

‘We’ll see how it all filters out’: Cullen hopes Leinster can keep hold of Lancaster

JOE SCHMIDT’S SOON-TO-BE-ANNOUNCED decision on whether he will extend his tenure as Ireland head coach beyond next year’s World Cup may have potential knock-on effects for Leinster. 

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne recently said the province’s senior coach, Stuart Lancaster, along with current Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell, were ‘more than capable of stepping up’ should Schmidt, who took over in 2013, depart the role. 

Lancaster has had a huge impact at Leinster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While Farrell was quick to brush aside any suggestion he and Lancaster will succeed Schmidt last week, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is also understandably keen to retain Lancaster’s services.

The Englishman has had a seismic impact at the province since his arrival two seasons ago, playing an integral role in Leinster’s double-winning campaign in 2017/18 as part of Cullen’s coaching team.

The former England boss renewed terms with Leinster in May 2017 and has consistently reaffirmed his commitment to the province when linked with other head coach positions — but a return to international rugby may prove too hard to turn down should the IRFU come calling.

“Yeah, definitely, Stuart has made an unbelievable impact,” Cullen said, when asked how much he would like to keep Lancaster.

“It even goes to some of the players that played at the weekend [against the All Blacks], someone like Josh (van der Flier), James Ryan, Garry (Ringrose), even Johnny (Sexton).

“The way the provinces are training now, Stuart certainly has an impact in the way we train with the physical conditioning of all the players.

Cullen added that should Lancaster depart his current role, Leinster have the structures in place to ensure the programme doesn’t rely on one individual.

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“We will see how that all filters out. They are decisions for another day,” he continued.

“For us, we are always making sure the organisation doesn’t rely on any one person. That’s not the way any organisation should be set-up because then it is always going to be vulnerable.

“We’re investing in all the coaches, and investing in the young players.”

Having guided Leinster back to the summit of European rugby, achieving a first-ever double last term, Cullen’s stock as a head coach has soared since he was thrown in at the deep end upon replacing Matt O’Conor in 2015.

But he insisted becoming Ireland head coach is not something on his radar at this early stage of his coaching career.

“I am very young in my coaching development,” the former second row said. “I have a lot to learn.

“It’s not really something that’s on my radar. We are very engrossed in what we’re doing [with Leinster]. There is a very good chance the Ireland coaching ticket may stay the same.”

Would you like to stay at Leinster for all your career, then? A Leinster lifer?

“What’s a lifer?” he laughed, before joking: “I might get fired next week. I won’t be able to get a job anywhere else.”  

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