Belfast Telegraph

Leinster's young guns must step up to the plate, insists Cullen

Respect: Leo Cullen knows Lyon are a quality side
Respect: Leo Cullen knows Lyon are a quality side

By Cian Tracey

As Leo Cullen sees it, this is a rite of passage for any Leinster player. If you can prove your worth away from home in France, then you've taken another step on the ladder.

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They are surrounded by experience, but for Max Deegan and Rónan Kelleher this is a first Champions Cup involvement in France, while Josh Murphy will make his European debut off the bench today.

The trio have ticked every box so far this season, impressing when the internationals were away at the World Cup, with Kelleher in prolific try-scoring form and Deegan upping his work-rate to match his precocious ability.

Along with Caelan Doris, who would no doubt be involved were it not for injury, they are pushing themselves into the Ireland picture.

Lyon may be a relatively new face on the European scene, but they are top of the Top 14 and have picked a formidable team. After losing the corresponding fixture to Toulouse last season, Leinster are on guard.

"It will be a great step up for them in terms of their development," Cullen said as he looks to his on-field leaders to guide the new boys through.

"That's the piece that we always have to get through. You've got to pick them for the games. You talk about guys coming through, they play for the PRO14 team, then play for the European team and if you go well in that scenario it's not long before guys go on and play for Ireland. When you go to France it's a bit more of a test of our manhood."

Cullen has made five changes to his team, recalling Rob Kearney to the full-back jersey as Jordan Larmour shifts on to the wing. Robbie Henshaw partners Garry Ringrose, while Tadhg Furlong, Scott Fardy and Deegan come into the pack.

Lyon, meanwhile, are without their game-breaking Fijian winger Josua Tuisova.

Leinster have the know-how and ability to rise above.

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