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Saturday 18 August 2018

Schmidt keeping Leinster on their guard

Injury doubt over trio with qualification for quarters not certain

COACH Joe Schmidt will not tolerate any complacency as Leinster stand on the edge of Heineken Cup quarter-final qualification at home to Saracens on Saturday afternoon.

A win will take them there. “The pool is far from over. We really need to win on Saturday – bottom line,” he warned.

In many ways, the Christmas-New Year period couldn’t have gone much better for Schmidt, accumulating nine points from Connacht and The Ospreys without ever hitting the right notes in the Magners to move into third place in the League.

It is always good to have something to work on. Better than that, Leinster have five points to spare over Clermont-Auvergne and Racing Metro with Saracens three points further adrift of the pace in Pool Two of the Heineken.

Four points from a one penalty-to-none win would come as sweet music to the ears of the coach. He knows there will have to be a transformation in attitude and energy from last Friday night.

His players also know it. “They are realists,” stated Schmidt.

“They know that if we put together similar sort of performances we have against Connacht and The Ospreys on Friday night, it won’t be a level high enough to beat Saracens.

“I think there will be a step-up in hunger and intensity and energy that we didn’t see on Friday night, which was disappointing.

“Sometimes, it is not the worst thing to not play well and get a win and be hard on yourself to up the ante for the next week.

“Without being too confident, I am very hopeful that you will see a more energised Leinster on Saturday. “The Heineken Cup is enough.

“We didn’t work so hard to get to where we are just to give it away now.”

There was a crack in the near perfect façade when Leinster revealed Jamie Heaslip (ankle), Jonathan Sexton (calf) and Cian Healy will be monitored through the week before a final decision will be taken on their participation. Versatile back rower Sean O’Brien has been declared available to continue his ‘Player of the Year’ standard of form at either numbers six or eight, depending on the fitness of Heaslip.

There is more than a touch of the Heaslip- Rocky Elsom axis about the way Heaslip and O’Brien are working in tandem.

RICHARDT STRAUSS skipped over the blue seats of Donnybrook yesterday like hurdles that didn’t cost him a thought in the world ahead of The RDS clash with Saracens.

In rugby terms, especially as a South African hooker, Strauss is a small man, at 5’9” and 15.5 stones, with a big man’s mentality. There was a time, back in his homeland, when he was protected by giants of the Springbok game.

CJ van der Linde, Os du Randt, Ollie le Roux and Jannie du Plessis formed the pillars between which he worked his way into the first team at The Cheetahs. He was quiet discreet in how he deflected questions about whether he felt burned by his time in South Africa.

One minute he was first choice. The next he was hamstrung by injury and the subsequent selection policy. Does he feel he has anything to prove to those that let him go? “I don’t want to be negative. There is nothing for me to prove,” he said.

“It is more about me trying to prove myself in Ireland and getting the respect of the people over here. I have made a change. “It is something I have committed to.”

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