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Leinster captain Leo Cullen hailed coach Joe Schmidt after the Heineken Cup victory at Twickenham

Updated: Sunday, 20 May 2012 19:28 | Comments

Leo Cullen: "Joe brings a relentless pursuit of excellence. He demands high standards, and it is great for the players. All the coaching staff work so hard with this squad."
Leo Cullen: "Joe brings a relentless pursuit of excellence. He demands high standards, and it is great for the players. All the coaching staff work so hard with this squad."

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Leinster captain Leo Cullen has highlighted coach Joe Schmidt's "relentless pursuit of excellence" as a driving force behind their ascent to the European rugby summit.

The Irish heavyweights now have sights firmly set on a domestic and European double after rewriting the Heineken Cup record book.

Their 42-14 Twickenham trouncing of Ulster was the biggest winning margin in a Heineken final, while Leinster's five-try haul and points tally also set new figures.

And the achievements did not stop there as they became the first team to land three European titles in four seasons, while only Leicester 10 years ago had previously successfully defended the trophy.

Victory over the Ospreys in next Sunday's RaboDirect PRO12 final would see Leinster land the first European and domestic double by any team since Wasps in 2004.

And New Zealander Schmidt, who is making a powerful case to be part of the British and Irish Lions coaching team in Australia next year, has now masterminded two successful Heineken Cup campaigns since moving to Dublin in 2010.

"Joe brings a relentless pursuit of excellence," Cullen said.

"He demands high standards, and it is great for the players. All the coaching staff work so hard with this squad.

"Looking back, we won the Celtic League in its first year (2002), and we thought we would push on from that, but we crashed out of Europe pretty embarrassingly on a few occasions.

"In 2007 I couldn't really see how the team was going to be successful in the immediate future. It was just a very disjointed period.

"But Michael Cheika then came in as coach and changed the mentality. He brought in some quality players and some good young players came through as well. The team was desperate to be successful.

"It wasn't pretty when we won the Heineken Cup in 2009, we sort of fell over the line in the final against Leicester at Murrayfield, but the belief was there and we knew we had to kick on after that."

Schmidt deflected praise on to the players, many of whom had already starting talking about next week's Ospreys challenge before even leaving Twickenham last night.

"The players put a lot of energy into it," Schmidt said.

"There is a degree of resolve for next week, and when it is coming from the players it makes it easy for me to crack the whip.

"It is an achievement for this group of men. They get on so well together, they are a very tight-knit unit and they are such a coachable group.

"They really want to try to be the best they can be, and they work really hard to do that. The leadership is superb across the board.

"The players bring a resolve and they unite in that. It does make them very tough to break down for opposition teams.

"We have got a bit left on our plate, and we will now focus on the final next Sunday and give that our best shot.

"I would like to think we can select from a full squad. No-one pulled up too badly, and we know that anyone who can beat Munster 45-10 - as the Ospreys did in the semi-finals - have to be a very good side."

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