What an early exit would mean for Leinster.

Posted: November 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


What a disastrous start to the Champions Cup for Leo Cullen’s men. Cullen’s men have lost their first two European games for the first time since the 96/97 season, 19 years ago.

Leinster now need to beat Toulon twice in back-to-back games to have any hope in salvaging their European season, as a Challenge Cup place is no longer up for grabs.

That being said, there is a lot to play for in the Pro 12 league. A top six finish will see them qualify for next year’s tournament (which is certainly attainable). Not only that, but in the past Leinster also failed to progress to the knockout stages in 07/08 under Cheika, and went on to win the European Cup and their domestic league the following season.

Cheika, voted this year’s Coach of the Year, knew he was building something and where he wanted the team to go. But does Cullen?

With no previous coaching experience bar a season as a forward coach, Cullen took the reigns of the three-time European champions at the beginning of the season. Big things were expected, but fans’ expectations have been punctured by two flat performances, home and away.

Cullen’s tenure thus far mirrors that of Martin Johnson’s time in charge of England. Johnson was handed the reigns of the chariot, and guided it into that disastrous 2007 World Cup. He also had no previous coaching experience.

But will an early Leinster exit have further implications than those of fan unrest and a questionable game plan? Absolutely.

Leinster’s annual turnover (excluding monies given by the IRFU) is around €15 million. The union then pays €900,000 towards 17 contracts, and €50,000 towards the remainder.

With not reaching the knockout stages seeming like a reality rather than a possibility, the remaining home fixtures against both Bath and Toulon will not generate the expected crowd number. They will (probably) be dead rubber games for the boys in blue. The Toulon game has already sold 35,000, but will it now become a sell out? Probably not.

On top of that, the Leinster branch would be denied lucrative home quarter and semi final games, which would not only generate money for the branch but circa €4 million for Dublin.

Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy will both be finished their international contracts at the end of the season, and questions will be asked if the Leinster branch and the IRFU can make significant offers. Both will generate interest from foreign clubs, and with rugby being a short career, money talks.

Leinster only have seven players under IRFU international contracts – Rob Kearney, Johnny Sexton, Seán O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Cian Healy, Mike Ross and Devin Toner. This means that they will need to generate ticket sales to offer their other big players enough to stay, and ticket sales come from winning.

An early European exit would be a disaster for Leinster and their fans. Nor would it inspire confidence in Cullen’s leadership. But it would be a disaster for Leinster financially.


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