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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Leo Cullen pays tribute to ‘great character of the game’ as Doddie Weir’s passing casts cloud on Leinster’s stroll

The final whistle had just sounded at the RDS, when the celebratory mood was quickly dampened as news of Doddie Weir’s untimely passing filtered through.

n that very moment, Leinster’s 40-5 victory over Glasgow seemed almost irrelevant, as the fragility of life itself was put into perspective.

Back in January 2019, two years after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Weir spent some time at Leinster’s UCD base, and since then, Leo Cullen has crossed paths with a man for whom he had a great level of respect, since his playing days with Scotland.

That Leinster had just resoundingly beaten a Glasgow side that Weir had spent plenty of time with in his latter years added extra poignancy to the night.

“Certainly as a second-row forward and seeing Doddie Weir in that ‘Living with the Lions’ (documentary) in 1997, it’s amazing isn’t it, the time for the game and professionalism,” Cullen said.

“Seeing his character as well, but in more recent years, I have seen Doddie at a couple of Glasgow games.

“It’s hard, isn’t it? Jeepers. But how he has conducted himself, all the funds and the work that he has done in recent years.

​“As a great rugby man that he was, a great character of the game, so our thoughts are with his family, friends and all his loved ones. It’s a very, very difficult time. Enjoy the day, isn’t it? It’s tough to hear.

“Our sympathies go out with the Glasgow guys as well. I know he was a big part of what they were doing.

“I can literally picture him in the stand. Doddie and Stu (Lancaster) would have had a few different interactions, where I’ve met Doddie then as well. It’s a tough one.”

It seemed rather insensitive to go from talking about the legacy of Doddie Weir to Leinster’s bonus-point win, but after paying a warm tribute to a legend of the game, Cullen reflected on a patchy performance that was ultimately still far too good for a Glasgow side, who weren’t at the races.

Leinster scored six tries in total, including a hat-trick from Academy winger Rob Russell, veteran Dave Kearney, Michael Milne and John McKee.

Despite playing well in spells, Cullen knows that major improvements are required ahead of next weekend’s visit of Ulster before the Champions Cup begins.

“It didn’t feel like we won the game 40-5, that’s one thing for certain,” Cullen admitted.

“How guys have trained over the last couple of weeks has been really pleasing, a number of young guys in there because Glasgow have a lot of top end players there coming back from Scotland duty.

“It’s never going to be the perfect performance in these weeks, so it’s great to get the job done and get a bonus point win at home.

“Some guys are up and running now in terms of game-time as well.

“I thought the bench gave a good account of themselves. We needed a bit of a lift.

I thought the forwards were particularly lacking a bit of spark, which again, when some guys haven’t played in a while, you’re going to get to a certain extent.

“I thought the lads closed the game out well, so overall we’re delighted with the outcome but we know we need to be better in the future,” Cullen added.

“We hope the competition will serve us well. We have an exciting block of games coming up. One game down, nine to go.

“Lots to look forward to, so hopefully again, we get a big crowd again next week for Ulster, which will be a good old challenge I’m sure.”

​Scorers – Leinster: Russell 3 tries; Kearney, Milne, McKee 1 try each; R Byrne 4 cons; H Byrne con. Glasgow: Cancelliere try.

Leinster: J Osborne; R Russell, L Turner, C Ngatai (H Byrne h-t), D Kearney; R Byrne (C Cosgrave 70), L McGrath (C Foley 60); E Byrne (M Milne 50), R Kelleher (J McKee 66), T Clarkson (V Abdaladze, 50); R Molony, J McCarthy (J Jenkins 50); R Ruddock (capt) (R Baird 50), S Penny, M Deegan.

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; S Cancelliere, K Steyn (capt), S McDowall, R McLean (R Thompson 55) (E Ferrie 74); T Jordan, G Horne (J Dobie 66); O Kebble (J Bhatti 56), F Brown (J Matthews 56), M Walker (S Berghan 56); S Manzi, A Samuel (P Du Preez 56); G Brown (L Bean 66), S Vailanu, J Dempsey.

Referee: M van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

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