Saturday 16 December 2017

Boss bemoans Blues breakup

Schmidt frustrated as international dates limit options

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt will plan to turn The RDS into a 'House of Horrors' for Edinburgh in the Magners League on Saturday evening.

The Irish province will have to work out how to 'trick' Edinburgh into providing a 'treat' for their spectators -- there have been 15,500 tickets sold already -- in what is cleverly being marketed as a 'Halloween Thriller' on a dark night in the capital city.

The two clubs convening in joint-sixth in the table will seek to break away from one another and make an upward move towards the play-off positions or risk being anchored in mid-table limbo.

"Ah, we're in a tenuous position, there's no doubt about that," admitted Schmidt.

He will have to scheme without the bulk of the 13 players involved in the extended Ireland squad for the November international series at a time when Leinster are hitting their straps.

The Kiwi wasn't best pleased: "Yeah, it is frustrating, to be honest, especially leading up to the break. This match will hang over us for the break. It's also the bad luck of the draw.

"The fact that it's Edinburgh means they've got all their Scotland players available. I think even some of the Welsh teams don't have everyone available so it would have been nice to have drawn anyone but a Scottish side this weekend."

The splintering of Leinster's squad has come at the worst possible time now that they have established momentum in Europe and cohesion in the Magners League.

Schmidt said: "We'd just got some continuity in selection and in the way we were playing. The frustration is not so much that we're going to have a lot of new guys playing. (It is) just we have to get that cohesion again."

Of course, the priority for Ireland coach Declan Kidney is to have his players in the best possible nick to confront three of the best nations in the world and Samoa. Strangely, the advent of recent injuries could play out in Schmidt's favour.

He added: "Well, some of them, they might want to give more game time to. Jonny Sexton has only had three games, so is that enough to have him in top shape? I'm not sure.

"There are other guys, like Luke Fitzgerald, who took a bit of a knock but could have played for us last week. I don't know really what their thoughts are, as far as those kind of guys are concerned".


Summer signing Ed O'Donoghue has stepped up his rehabilitation from a knee injury this week at a time when Leo Cullen will be looking for more game time to work on his match practice.

"Leo is a bit like some other players were at the start of the season. He's just finding his feet. We haven't changed a massive amount here, but we have tried to do a little bit different attacking-wise.

"Leo's the club captain so there's every chance he will captain the side. That might be a decision I'll leave to Leo -- if he starts -- and if he's ready to focus his energies across the team. He might just want to concentrate on making sure he's getting everything right."

Schmidt will want all players available to follow Cullen's lead or Leinster could be in for a long, scary Halloween night.

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