Leinster head coach Leo Cullen ready to embrace pressure of Champions Cup final

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen ready to embrace pressure of Champions Cup final

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen believes that “pressure is a good thing” ahead of Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final against holders La Rochelle.

Dublin’s Aviva Stadium will be packed to its capacity of just over 50,000 as Leinster target a record-equalling fifth European title.

They were beaten by La Rochelle in last season’s final, but Cullen’s team go into battle as marginal favourites on home soil.

Leinster
Leinster players at their training session in Dublin ahead of the Champions Cup final (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Pressure is a funny thing, isn’t it?” Cullen told www.epcrugby.com.

“Everyone is nervous because they want to do their best. It is such an amazing tournament.

“We go back to the preparation during the course of the week, and you can’t fault the lads. They have prepared really well this week.

“I can’t wait to see them play and deliver something close to their best. That is all we need to do.

“Pressure is a good thing. That is what we want, we all want to be here. It is pressure, but it’s the most positive pressure you could ask for.”

Cullen has made two changes from the team that saw off semi-final opponents Toulouse.

Ireland internationals Robbie Henshaw and James Lowe return to the starting line-up, with Henshaw forging a familiar midfield partnership alongside Garry Ringrose.

La Rochelle have reached a third successive European final, and their head coach Ronan O’Gara said: “We talk all the time about stifling or stopping Leinster, but stopping La Rochelle is also a subject.

Ronan O'Gara
Ronan O’Gara is chasing back-tot-back European titles with La Rochelle (Brian Lawless/PA)

“This perception is also important. Our last defeat (in the Champions Cup) was almost two years ago.

“I am not too interested in the opponent, even if I respect him. I am focused on my team, on our path and what we are going to do on Saturday.

“We know it will be very hard, but it is possible. It will be crucial to manage stress in a venue where there will be a lot of adversity. It will be a big test.”