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covid outbreaks Leinster's Leo Cullen determined to press ahead with Montpellier plans despite Covid outbreak

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Leo Cullen has a lot on his plate this week with a number of Covid cases in the Leinster camp. Photo: Sportsfile

Leo Cullen has a lot on his plate this week with a number of Covid cases in the Leinster camp. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster players including Max Deegan during a Leinster Rugby squad training session at UCD in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Leinster players including Max Deegan during a Leinster Rugby squad training session at UCD in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

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Leo Cullen has a lot on his plate this week with a number of Covid cases in the Leinster camp. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster expect to have clarity today around Friday’s Heineken Champions Cup clash in Montpellier, as both squads have been hit with outbreaks of Covid-19.

Leo Cullen’s side are due to travel to France tomorrow, but with Montpellier awaiting the latest round of test results, the game remains in doubt.

Although Leinster returned to training yesterday, the province confirmed a further unspecified number of positive cases, which has thrown Cullen’s plans into even more disarray.

Other close contacts have also been impacted, but Leinster are determined to press ahead with their plans in order to avoid having to forfeit the game 28-0.

As things stand, Leinster have been granted permission to fly to France tomorrow, but it is unclear what kind of squad Cullen will be able to choose from.

“For Europe, you were allowed to have a very extended squad; we have 60-odd players, or whatever it is, so we’ve been lucky,” the Leinster head coach explained.

“So many of our guys in that 60 are academy guys, it’s just always forward planning really. If you think of rounds three and four and were we to lose players at different stages, we’re lucky we have a good chunk of guys that have played in the senior team; even a lot of our academy guys, they’re generally here with us.

“For this period, we actually decided to move a lot of those guys back down to Energia (Park) to train there separately, to tighten up what we have here. So we’ve tried to make some of those precautions over the last couple of weeks just in terms of that forward planning piece.

“But, yeah, we’d have a lot of confidence, similar to what Munster had. It was great to see some of those guys go so well, a lot of those guys we would have seen at underage level.”

Asked if much of this week was about ensuring Leinster are seen to be doing all they can to avoid having to forfeit Friday’s game, Cullen elaborated: “As I said, we have had a big number (of players), that’s the beauty of it. Always, the worry was around the front-row. I think that’s the big thing in terms of the close contacts.

“That’s why we have tried to manage the group as best we can to do everything we can to crack on with the game, basically.

“That’s the position we are in. As you can imagine, there is certain challenges within that, but we trust the medics and, obviously, EPCR and the HSE will make their relevant calls.”

Leinster have largely been fortunate in terms of avoiding Covid-related disruptions, but this week has been a particular challenge for the players and coaches.

Yesterday’s first training of the week included a scrum session, which saw players wear masks as an extra precaution.

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“Our plan was to run the week Monday and Tuesday, but we didn’t do the Monday, we’ve just done the Tuesday,” Cullen added. “Then we’ll do a team run and get on the flight on Thursday. That’s the plan, and there’s all the various testing that’s thrown into the mix as well. We’re due to test twice this week and we’ve taken extra precautions by trying to antigen test every day.

“The accuracy of these tests, there definitely is some level of accuracy to it. The PCR tests as well, you test one day and the result comes back the next day is, typically, the way it works.

“I’m not a medical expert, obviously, but what we’re trying to do is get busy, get ready for the challenge of Montpellier, which is a huge challenge in itself.”

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