Monday 24 October 2016

Why Leinster now poses a serious question for old boy Joe Schmidt

Leinster could line out as Ireland against Baa baas


You'D laugh if it wasn't so sad. National coach Joe Schmidt might just travel back in time to prepare Leinster for a workout against The Barbarians.

Ireland are scheduled to play the fabled tourists at Thomond Park on the evening of Thursday, May 28 and the Irish Rugby Football Union offer of a special two tickets for the price of one deal was launched at midday yesterday.

The reality is the Ireland selection could look very similar to a Leinster one without their non-qualified brigade of Jimmy Gopperth, Ben Te'o, Kane Douglas and Zane Kirchner.

This is what you might call a hard sell, mostly Munster supporters paying in to watch and support Leinster in green.

Back when the fixture was organised, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt applied logic to the business end of the season, setting it down for delivery two nights before the PRO12 League final.

"One of the really pragmatic things was to get everyone to finish at the same time," mentioned Schmidt.

This would allow a one-month break for the Irish players before the extended World Cup squad assembles for pre-season on July 1st.

At this point, Leinster's exclusion from the PRO12 semi-finals for the first time means they are the only confirmed club candidates to turn-up against The Barbarians.

That is likely to change soon enough even though Schmidt has fingered the organisers of The Champions Cup as the main culprits in, possibly, landing Connacht into a two-match post-season play-off challenge.

"You know conceivably that could be three Irish teams in that, you could have Connacht playing off, the ERC mind-wave that they had about how they were going to work things out," lashed Schmidt last week.

The strong positioning of Munster, in second, and Ulster, in third, makes them serious candidates to make the PRO12 final with Connacht still harbouring hopes of making up the five-point gap to The Scarlets in sixth.

Therein lies the rub.

"That could mean that we would just have that one team, so we would work with that one team so they could finish at the same time.

"It was as much of that as anything else," added Schmidt.

"It is why the team will come together on a Tuesday night and play the Thursday night. It is a very truncated preparation window.

"One of the really good things about it is it will be an opportunity to probably broaden a little bit the playing base and work with some players who we might have time to get to know."

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