December reflection from Cullen

Date published: December 3 2013

Leinster captain Leo Cullen is eager to banish last year's December struggles against Clermont ahead of facing Northampton Saints.

Leinster captain Leo Cullen is eager to banish last year's December struggles against Clermont ahead of facing Northampton Saints.

The three-time champions' hopes of a third title in succession were shattered this time last year after they came out of their back-to-back matches against Clermont with two losses.

Without key stars due to injury this time 12 months ago including Brian O'Driscoll and Rob Kearney, Cullen concedes that the squad are in much better shape one year on before facing last season's Aviva Premiership finalists.

“This is the part of the season when we came unstuck last year, if you look back on those two Clermont games. It leaves a long [bitter] taste in the mouth if you don't get these things right,' Cullen told the Daily Mail.

“Going back over a number of years, Leinster were very guilty of crumbling around January time. You had a lot of poor results at the tail end of the Heineken Cup [pool].

“These back-to-back games, especially for ourselves and Northampton, could be crucial for deciding who comes out of this group.

“We've kind of finished those November internationals in a better place, we were pretty bashed up this time last year.

“You need a bit of luck but everyone's been working very hard to try and get ourselves in the best possible shape. We just need to get out there and perform against a very good team.”

Cautious of the physical threat posed by the likes of Samu Manoa and Courtney Lawes for Northampton, Cullen expects a draining clash ahead over the next fortnight.

“Samu Manoa is very abrasive, a very strong ball-carrier, very strong [in] defence. They've got plenty of quality,” added Cullen.

“Northampton, when they play at Franklin's Gardens, they'll want to take us on physically. Courtney Lawes is a huge part of that because of the physically imposing guy that he is.”

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