Cullen admits Leinster must learn lessons from O’Brien and Wright incidents

‘We have a responsibility to uphold ourselves to the highest possible standards’

Leo Cullen admitted that lessons had been learned and parameters put in place to ensure that there would be no repetition of the incidents involving Stan Wright and Seán O'Brien at the end of last season. "We weren't happy the way that we handled it ourselves," admitted the Leinster head coach.

Wright, a former player who was back in Dublin to celebrate a 10-year anniversary dinner for the first Leinster team to win the Heineken Cup, was alleged to have punched and knocked out academy player Jack Dunne in a hotel in the early hours of Sunday, May 26th. The team had returned from Glasgow on the Saturday night having beaten Glasgow Warriors earlier that day in the final of the Pro 14.

O’Brien, who will play with London Irish next season, was alleged to have urinated on a member of the public in a pub where members of the Leinster squad were celebrating on the night after the Pro14 victory.

The Irish international was sanctioned by the IRFU under the terms of his contract and apologised to the individual concerned while Leinster concluded an investigation into the Wright incident “to the satisfaction of all parties” according to a statement at the time.


It read: “An internal investigation was carried out by Leinster Rugby, which has concluded to the satisfaction of all parties and as a result we will not be making any further comment on the incident other than to confirm that the player in question received medical attention and that he has made a full recovery.”

Speaking after Saturday’s 47-17 pre-season friendly victory over Coventry in a pre-season friendly at Donnybrook, Cullen said: “There were a couple of things that happened in that period that we don’t like to see. We talked about it a lot; we addressed the players just in terms of steps that we can put in place. There are things that we can control better ourselves and that’s what we will try to do moving forward.”

Cullen accepted that it was a shared responsibility between players and the organisation to ensure that everyone understood their responsibility in a social environment no matter what the circumstances. “Yeah, definitely, there are a couple of different things that have happened and some of that falls on the club, and some of it is on the players.

“How we manage, I guess, celebrations when the group are out together on a night out, in particular; we will endeavour to be better. It was an unusual end to the season the fact we had this big dinner thing.

“The players had a night out at the end of the season as well prior to that. We played the Pro14 final and then on the Sunday another incident takes place. We could probably be better with having someone that’s there keeping an eye on them so to speak.

“It’s important that players are allowed to go out and they want to be able to celebrate but you need to be able to . . . they’re being judged slightly differently to the rest of the general public and that’s the way it is. We need to understand that we have more of a responsibility to act in a certain way when we’re out together.

“We’ve talked to the players already and, as I said, some of that falls back on the club and how we handle certain situations as well. You probably know what I’m talking about, without getting into the specifics of it.

“It’s definitely something we want to learn from so it doesn’t happen again. For us as a whole, all of us, the players and staff, we have a responsibility to uphold ourselves to the highest possible standards.”

Leinster beat English Championship side Coventry with Cullen giving game time to 29 players during the course of the 80 minutes. The home side ran in five tries in the first half, two for tighthead prop Vakh Abdaladze, and one apiece for Josh Murphy, Adam Byrne and Harry Byrne with the latter adding all five conversions.

They added two more in the second half through replacements Max Deegan and Ronan Watters, with the excellent Harry Byrne converting the first one. There were a number of eye-catching performances even allowing for their dominance with Abdaladze, Murphy, Ronan Kelleher, Martin Moloney and Ronan Foley excelling up front and debutant Harry Byrne and Barry Daly the pick of the backline.

Leinster will travel to Canada on Tuesday and face the Canadian national side next Saturday as part of their Rugby World Cup preparations.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer