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Leinster boss Leo Cullen has praised tighthead prop Michael Ala’alatoa’s start to life with the provincial outfit after joining the team in the summer.
Ala’alatoa is set to make his fourth start for the club in seven games since arriving from Crusaders in New Zealand – he has racked up 51 minutes as a substitute in two other games also.
The Samoan international was unavailable for selection against Ulster last weekend as he was with the national side, who were meant to play the Barbarians in an ill-fated fixture.
He will make his return to the side on Friday night when they face Connacht in their second interprovincial fixture in as many weeks.
Head Coach Leo Cullen has praised his new tighthead ahead of his sixth appearance for the reigning domestic champions.
“[Ala’alatoa] has been a great character within the group – very, very popular with the lads,” Cullen noted. “In terms of his performance on the field, he’s coming from a very good environment (Crusaders) so he’s added lots of little bits there as well.”
Ala’alatoa joined the side after five years with the Crusaders and was regarded as a “world-class prop” over there by his coach Scott Roberson.
Naturally, he slots into second in the tighthead pecking order at the club, behind Tadhg Furlong and ahead of Vakh Abdeladze and Thomas Clarkson.
His presence in their scrum and in the defensive line has been something that Leinster cherished in the opening weeks, with Furlong resting after being on Lions duty.
On top of this, the 30-year-old has yet to taste defeat playing for Leinster, with a perfect record attached to his name so far.
Cullen is hoping that the Samoan will continue to perform for the side and further prove his worth in the weeks ahead, starting with the United Rugby Championship clash against Connacht.
“So yeah, hopefully, he just goes from strength to strength – that’s the plan. He’s settled in well which is great to see, which is what you want from guys coming in on the outside.”