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Loss leaves Joe in a quandary

One week on and coach Joe Schmidt is not much wiser as to how to best employ the players at his disposal following the 37-14 defeat by Leicester Tigers in their last pre-season outing at Welford Road last night.

More than 11,000 supporters turned out to witness the far more experienced Tigers move away from Leinster in the second half in an impressive display of strength in depth. Still, Schmidt was resolute in his defence of a group of largely untried and untested professional players, who will have to learn on the job for the first few rounds of the Magners League.

"I wanted to have a look at a few of the younger guys," offered Schmidt, before pointing out the difference in experience between the Leinster and Leicester replacements.

"It was a funny one. As we were introducing our players, Leicester were bringing on international players like (Dan) Cole, (Dan) Hipkiss and Scott Hamilton, who came back on."

It was this sort of firepower that was crucial in overturning Leinster's 14-6 lead, established by the 28th minute through a tightly knit pack of forwards and a willing defence across the three-quarter line.

Centre Fergus McFadden's three penalties against two from England international Toby Flood and a chip-and-chase from out-half Ian McKinley sowed the seeds of a shock. It was not to be, however, as Leicester roared back for five-pointers from a penalty try and the gargantuan wing Alesana Tuilagi, Flood posted both conversions for a 20-14 lead at the interval.

"That was their fourth game and our second. It was their full squad and it wasn't ours," remarked Schmidt, having to work without the bulk of his Ireland internationals and a number of injury victims. Like the London Wasps before them the previous week, Leicester used their superior cohesion from greater time together for Dan Hipkiss to round the visitors defence in the 47th minute.

Replacement Manu Tuilagi powered to the whitewash ahead of his brother Alesana's second try with the final quarter remaining. It was merely a matter of how much Leicester would win by.

Thus, it was left to a callow side, including six academy prospects, to fight the good fight in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. They could have caved. They didn't and kept their line intact to the end.

"I felt it was similar to last week's game, but we were better. We showed a lot of character near the end," admitted Schmidt.

"I thought Simon Shawe battled well and Ed O'Donoghue did well on his debut. We took a few knocks, but nothing too serious."

The serious stuff will start next Friday night when Leinster embark on their first Magners League match of the season at Glasgow Warriors.

Time is not on their side.