Rugby World Cup: Ireland ‘must stay focused’ on Russia
Captain Leo Cullen wants his side to build on their win against Australia in Sunday's clash with Russia
Ireland skipper Leo Cullen has urged his players to build on last weekend’s stunning victory over Australia with a similarly impressive win against Russia on Sunday.
Cullen, who will captain Ireland on his Rugby World Cup debut, has warned his side they must stay focused on the task at hand despite their historic result against The Wallabies last weekend.
“There has been a really good atmosphere all the way through, even during August when we were losing [in the warm-up matches] everyone stayed tight,” said Cullen ahead of the Pool C clash.
“Now we’re starting to build momentum and we must push on. There’s no point Australia being the end of our journey, we’ve still got a long way to go in this tournament.
“After the Australia game there was a real buzz in the camp and there’s a massive responsibility on us to carry on the momentum that we have. We’ve been training hard over the last few months and we’ve all been looking for a chance to play.
“For some of us that first chance comes on Sunday. We’re champing at the bit to get out there.”
Cullen says he is determined to seize the chance to make his mark on rugby union’s biggest stage, describing it as a “special moment”.
“It has been a long time coming, I’ve sat back and watched plenty of World Cup games over the years,” said the Leinster captain. “To finally get the opportunity to play is a special moment for me.
“Everyone wants to play and most of the lads will be playing regularly at their province, so being a squad player is a difficult role. But what’s best for the squad is what’s best for the team.”
Cullen played a part in the only previous occasion Ireland have met Russia, in a 35-3 victory in a 2003 World Cup qualifier.
Ireland: Kearney, McFadden, Earls, Wallace, Trimble, O’Gara, Boss; Healy, Cronin, Buckley, O’Callaghan, Cullen (captain), Ryan, O’Brien, Heaslip.
Replacements: Best, Ross, Leamy, Jennings, Reddan, Sexton, Murphy.
Russia: Artemyev, Simplikevich, Kuzin, Trishin, Ostroushko, Rachkov, Yanyushkin (captain), Gresev, Garbuzov, Fatakhov, Byrnes, Antonov, Khrokin, Tsnobiladze, Popov.
Replacements: Matveev, Prishchepenko, Travkin, Voytov, Bykanov, Sidorov, Babaev.