Friday 17 November 2017

Schmidt: Cardiff set up ‘a real battle’

Leinster will have to deal with Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup quarter-final in Dublin before earning the right to travel away to either Saracens or Clermont-Auvergne in the semi-finals.

“As events unfolded across Europe over the last few days, it was difficult to second-guess who we would be playing, but now we know that we’re going to be facing Cardiff Blues in the Aviva Stadium,” reacted Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.

“We know that we’re going to be in for a real battle. We’re down to the last eight and we will need to go up another level because Cardiff will travel to Dublin in high spirits after their performances over the group stages.

“Cardiff are a hugely impressive side, well coached with a physical set of forwards up front and a lot of skill and pace out wide, and they have been well served by a number of All Blacks in their ranks who I would personally know well.

“It is great for our supporters that we will have a chance to play in the Aviva Stadium; a home from home for the province, which has served the team well in recent times.

“Our loyal followers who travel in such large numbers week in, week out are rewarded with a home tie and with the larger stadium this means that we are able to facilitate even more supporters to attend the game.”

While the winners of Munster and Ulster at Thomond Park would have the benefit of a home semi-final against either Edinburgh or Toulouse, Leinster would have to travel to Saracens or Schmidt’s former club Clermont-Auvergne.

Schmidt must have thrown his eyes to heaven when the ‘luck of the Irish’ deserted Leinster for the second season in three in terms of the semi-final draw.

“If we do manage to win this game that means that we'll maybe travel to either Wembley Stadium or St Etienne and, to be honest, if we do get to that stage then we'll be delighted,” he added.

How important is home advantage?

“It is always a major factor,” he said. “In the last two years, we have played Toulouse, once away and once at home. You would like to think you can go on the road and still get a win. But, we're not looking any further past the quarter-final.”

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