Leo Cullen: Leinster head coach will prepare for Ulster battle during Six Nations break

Leinster's James Lowe scores a try despite the attentions of Scarlets wing Ioan Nicholas
James Lowe's try helped Leinster to a scrappy Pro14 win against Scarlets at the RDS

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen plans to use his team's mid-season break to prepare for the play-off matches they will face after the 2019 Six Nations.

The Irish side are on track to defend both their Pro14 and European titles.

With a 19-point lead in Conference B, Leinster are certain to reach the Pro14 play-offs and they will host Ulster in the last eight of the Champions Cup.

Following a scrappy win over Scarlets, Leinster have a two-week break before they travel to Zebre on 16 February.

"We've come to the end of a long block of games and I think the bit of time away from each other will be good for a few days," said Cullen.

"Then when we come back together we'll try and work on parts of our game that I think are going to be important for us, not just in this next three-game block coming up but for the the block at the end of the season as well where you're involved in play-off games, which are different and we need to understand why they're a little bit different."

Leinster topped Pool One of the Champions Cup to secure a home quarter-final draw against provincial rivals Ulster on Saturday, 30 March but, as the main supplier to the Ireland Test squad, the Dublin-based side will be without most of their first-choice players in the intervening period.

Cullen and senior coach Stuart Lancaster will be watching the Six Nations to assess how their players perform under pressure while also hoping that they can stay injury-free.

"We'll try and take as much as we can, even from the Six Nations games as well because they're essentially play-off games," added Cullen.

"There's so much at stake every week and that type of rugby is different to some of the regular season games that you're involved in. That sense in the game, which is highly competitive with everyone throwing everything at it.

"Our first one of those games will obviously be against Ulster, which is a knockout game, you lose and you're out basically, so making sure that we [are prepared for that mentality].

"The points thing is not something that we're that caught up in so whoever is playing needs to be very clear in terms of what we're trying to achieve in terms of performance."

Ulster, who are 23 points behind Leinster in the Pro14 standings, have not won an interprovincial derby in Dublin since March 2013 and suffered a 33-point defeat in their most recent visit to the RDS earlier this month.

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