Leinster boss issues response to fierce criticism of province following ‘gold dust’ Jordie Barrett signing

Colin Newboult
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen alongside All Blacks star Jordie Barrett.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen alongside All Blacks star Jordie Barrett.

Jordie Barrett’s signing will be like “gold dust” for Leinster, according to their head coach Leo Cullen.

The 46-year-old also responded to the criticism of the province, who came under fire for bringing in Barrett on the same day that Dan Sheehan was awarded a central contract.

They have nine players on deals with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), which is eight more than any other province, with Munster, Ulster and Connacht having one each.

Due to the fact that some of Leinster’s best players are being paid for by the IRFU, that has opened up the opportunity for them to flex their financial muscle.

Biased system?

But the Barrett signing has not sat well with many, who feel that the Irish system is weighted in favour of the four-time Champions Cup winners.

Although Cullen did not engage too much around the debate on the nation’s contracting model, he did defend their decision to bring in the experienced All Black.

The head coach believes that Barrett’s addition can be of significant benefit to the youngsters, who have an opportunity to learn off one of the best players in the world.

“I think that’s an important piece if you can get the right person in, they can add not just in the short-term but in the longer term,” Cullen said.

“All the academy players are based in the building with us, they’re changing in the same dressing room, it’s that daily interaction, the habits – they see the guys who have gone on to play with Ireland.

“But just to get a slightly different perspective, it’s quite a nice thing to bring to the group (a player like Barrett) – just that little bit of gold dust that gets added to everybody, particularly the young players.

“He’s a player that hopefully supporters are excited to see, a top quality All Black who has 50 or 60 caps so hopefully there is a bit of excitement.”

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Cullen also delved into what qualities Barrett will add to the province having already carved out a hugely impressive career.

“I’ve watched him with the Hurricanes this week, and they are still unbeaten this year,” he said.

“Both sides of the ball, he’s a very strong defender and very skilful attacker, he’s got versatility as well.

“That’s something we’re drawn to as well because we’ve got players that are moving between the national set-up and our own, he can slot in in different places and hopefully do a good job for the team.”

Producing Test players

Ultimately, Leinster’s ability to bring in someone like Barrett has come about due to their remarkable production line which continues to churn out top-class Ireland internationals.

“We want to be able to produce players to play for Ireland, that’s the model in this country, and that’s the system the way it is,” Cullen added.

“We want our guys to go on and represent Ireland and we want to be able to give everything they have when they do represent Ireland and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

“The opportunity to sign a marquee player, for a short window… we’re moving from the RDS next year… you want to add to the player group you have.

“You have only so many opportunities to bring coaches and players from the outside, you want to make sure that whoever you are bringing in is really going to add value,” Cullen said.

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