LEO CULLEN won the United Rugby Championship’s coach of the season award this week.
Cullen was unable to win more silverware for Leinster this year after losing out to La Rochelle in the Champions Cup final, and lost last Friday to the Bulls in the URC semi-final, but it hasn’t stopped fellow coaches for voting for him.
— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOofficial) June 14, 2022
Leinster under Cullen have more points and tries scored than anybody else in the URC this year and many of his peers seemed to agree with the choice.
Speaking via a statement, Cullen said:
“I’d like to thank the URC for the award which I will accept on behalf of the wider coaching group and the 60 players that pulled on a Leinster rugby jersey this year.”
“The season most certainly did not end the way we would have liked but there were many highlights and positives over the year. I’d like to wish the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls the very best of luck in this weekend’s final.
“Having played both teams recently, it will be an interested final and a great way to bring the curtain down on the first season of the United Rugby Championship.
“The introduction of the four South African clubs has raised the standards and we’ll all have to raise our game to compete with them next season.
“We would dearly love to be there and will watch with keen interest, and we look forward to challenging for the title again next season.”
In other news for the province Leinster Rugby confirmed the signing of New Zealand international Charlie Ngatai from European Challenge Cup winners, Lyon.
The 31-year-old has played 88 times for Lyon in the last four seasons in the TOP14 and in the Heineken Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup and is a former New Zealand international.
Cullen said he that he was looking forward to ‘forward to welcoming his new player’ to Leinster ahead of the new season.
| Leinster Rugby can confirm the signing of Charlie Ngatai from European Challenge Cup winners, Lyon.
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— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) June 16, 2022
“I first came across Charlie back in 2014 when I visited the Chiefs late-on in my playing days and as I was preparing to make the transition into coaching. Even then, as a young man, you could see the influence he had on that Chiefs squad and that influence I think has only increased over the years with Lyon most recently.
“He’s a New Zealand international and I believe would have been capped far more only for his injury issues which were well-documented at the time but he has been back playing now a number of years and you could see even in the Challenge Cup final in Marseille just how influential a player he is.
“The important element for us I think when you look at some of the experience we are losing out of the environment this season with departures and retirements, is that Charlie will be an ever-present figure around UCD and will be a great asset to our Younger players in terms of his leadership and experience.
“We look forward to welcoming Charlie and his young family to Dublin very soon.”
Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Ngatai said, “I’ve had a great few seasons in Lyon but I’m now excited to get started in a new environment, a new team culture and to take on new challenges.
“I’ve had a few good chats with Leo and it will be exciting to play alongside some new and also some familiar faces.”