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Leinster coach Leo Cullen: Sending off changed complexion of game

Leinster coach Leo Cullen admitted the first-half sending off of Montpellier fly-half Frans Steyn significantly altered the course of the game in their 57-3 European Champions Cup clash at the RDS.

Steyn received his marching orders from referee JP Doyle following a high tackle on Jonathan Sexton, and Cullen was pleased to see his charges taking advantage of their numerical supremacy to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Cullen said: "Satisfied with a very good win. I thought the lads showed really good intent. We want to be able to play at pace, and sometimes if you have that intent to play at pace, you see the rewards of it later in the game as well.

"Obviously the red card, it changed the dynamic of the game pretty drastically. Montpellier actually came with a lot of intent to play as well, which probably got them in trouble when they were down to 14 men. I thought guys stuck to tasks really, really well, which was very, very pleasing."

Flanker Jack Conan, who deputised for the injured Sean O'Brien in the back row, finished with a hat-trick of tries for the Pool 4 winners, with captain Isa Nacewa, Adam Byrne, Luke McGrath, Cian Healy and Garry Ringrose also touching down.

Steyn's red card arrives less than fortnight on from the introduction of a number of law changes from World Rugby that seek to crack down on head-high tackles, and while Cullen feels it is a tough area to govern, he also believes players are taking a major risk if they continue to make these challenges.

"With everything that's gone on at the moment, it's a very tough area. I haven't studied it in enough detail really, but it's late around the head. You're running that risk. Players have been made aware of it. The word accidental doesn't mean anything anymore. It's a tough one, because a red card in rugby is a big deal, and it gives the opposition, which is us, a huge advantage."

Meanwhile, Montpellier boss Jake White was reluctant to comment on whether Steyn's red card was deserved, but did reveal that he is annoyed with the indiscipline that has led to his side finishing their last three Champions Cup games with 14 men.

"I am annoyed (with our discipline), because it has a domino effect on performance. I'm annoyed also because there's some really good players making some really stupid mistakes and decisions. Not only red cards, but kicking (loosely) out of your 22. You've some really talented players, and you can't turn the ball over," said the South African.

"There's nothing that happened tonight that they didn't expect. It's very simple, if you give the ball to Leinster, you're going to defend for three minutes. Not only did we give it to them, we gave it to them in our own 22, and we wondered why they turned it into points?!"


From Belfast Telegraph