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Friday 24 October 2014

Injury list a big worry for Blues

THE worries of a coach are not for the faint-hearted. Just ask Leinster's Joe Schmidt.

While players are left to their own devices, knowing their roles within the overall system, the coach has to devise a game plan and have the trust in his players to implement it.

"I worry about everyone all the time. But, I suppose that's my job," said Schmidt.

Unfortunately, the coach might have quite a few players to worry about after the five-try defeat of The Scarlets as Leinster plan to become just the second club, after Clermont Auvergne, to put four tries and five points on Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park next Saturday.

"I've got massive respect for Exeter, what Rob Baxter has done there, the quality of the player they've got and the collective that they really offer."

It will take that sort of monumental execution to give Leinster a fighting chance of maintaining their interest in the Heineken Cup later in the spring.

Schmidt described out-half Jonathan Sexton's blow to the rib as "marginal".

"I do think Jonny attracts attention. He is a little bit sore. But he was fine. He could have finished the game."

Fergus McFadden's bang to the knee "was really sore initially".

"We thought that there might be a little bit of trouble there.

"There is no medial ligament problem. The knee was really strong and he finished the game without any problem."

Centre Gordon D'Arcy (winded), Sean O'Brien (illness), Kevin McLaughlin (shoulder) and Richardt Strauss (knee) are all expected to be able to mount their challenges for selection.

The problem is that last week everyone was deemed fit to participate. Slowly, McLaughlin and Strauss dropped out of contention. O'Brien was stricken by illness the night before the game and Brian O'Driscoll pulled up with a problem that saw him demoted to 23rd man.

Centre O'Driscoll played out 80 minutes against Edinburgh last Friday week seemingly without any after-effects from his ankle injury.

Apparently, he pulled up in training on the following Monday with a slight injury, unrelated to the ankle, and was forced to rest it all week.

To compound matters, he suffered a right ankle setback in the final quarter against The Scarlets and appeared to refuse advice to hobble off the field of play.

"It was his other ankle. He has just assured me that it is fine.

"But he did last time as well," answered Schmidt, in reference to the recent ankle injury that took him out of the November internationals.

"I tell you what, though. He would be one of the most mentally tough players that I've ever had anything to do with.

"It doesn't have to be fine for him to play.

"He is really experienced. He knows his own body. He knows what he can do.

"The last time he tried to push through it and he came straight off.

"This time he felt it was getting better every time he took a step on it. That's a really good sign for an ankle.

"If you've done an ankle, it only takes five or six minutes because that ankle inevitably gets loose.

"He felt that he was walking it off, running it off and that it was getting better every minute he stayed on the pitch," offered Schmidt.

Even so, the general story was of a dressing-room ravaged by physical pain: "Both teams are a bit battered and bruised after that.

"It will be about recovery for these couple of days.

"Then, we'll try to look to do some calculation, be a little bit disappointed, feel a little bit vulnerable and then try to focus on what we can control and make the best of it.

"Inevitably, you can get distracted by those (calculations).

"Inevitably, you can hope. But hope doesn't actually get you over the line."

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