Tuesday 12 December 2017

Schmidt looks to youth club

Blues trust in young guns for tough Edinburgh clash

The boys of Leinster will be asked to do a man's job in cutting down in-form Edinburgh in the Magners League at The RDS this evening (6.05).

"The young guys are excited. They are enthusiastic about filling the shoes of Irish legends," said Joe Schmidt, in reference to the appearance of half-backs Paul O'Donohoe and Ian Madigan, and wing Andrew Conway.

The New Zealander knows there will be times tonight when they will make mistakes and will need the hometown supporters to rise up like a wall of sound.

"They're going to be a little nervous and, maybe, a little hesitant at times. If we get a really vocal rush of support behind us, it will give them a lift."

Frustratingly, Schmidt has had to watch his resources dwindle "just as we have got some momentum", while the Scottish club has been able to select from their strongest squad of players.

"It is challenging. For them, they are on the same points as we are. It is tough to get wins on the road. You really need to go and hunt them down," said Schmidt.

It is in the back division where Leinster could be exploited. Full-back Isa Nacewa and wing Shane Horgan are the only two playing top-line regular rugby this season.

However, there is a solid grain of experience running through the Leinster forward pack, from the captain Leo Cullen up to Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss and either Mike Ross or new signing Clint Newland -- a decision that will be left until closer to kick-off.

There is also positive news in the return to fitness of utility back Shaun Berne and Ireland flanker Rhys Ruddock, both to be found on the bench.

Edinburgh are known for their broad-stroke approach to the game, spreading the play from touchline-to-touchline, looking for holes along the way. They are also able to move to a tighter plan, as they did when they defeated Ulster (21-16) last week in the rain at Murrayfield.

"The boys have been playing very well for the last couple of weeks," said Edinburgh flanker Netani Talei.

"If they want to go physical with us, we are prepared for that. At the same time, we want to play to the patterns which best suit us," he said.

Coach Rob Moffatt has plumped for 19-year-old Alex Blair to make his debut alongside his brother Mike in a selection showing six alterations from the Ulster match.

Hooker Ross Ford, number eight Roddy Grant, their captain, and centres John Houston and Alex Grove are back to freshen up a team loaded with experience and the dead-eye kicking of full-back Chris Paterson.

Leinster: I Nacewa; S Horgan, E O'Malley, F McFadden, A Conway; I Madigan, P O'Donohoe; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, M Ross/C Newlands, L Cullen (capt), N Hines, D Ryan, S Jennings, S Keogh.

Edinburgh: C Paterson; J Thompson, A Grove, J Houston, T Visser; A Blair, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross, S MacLeod, F McKenzie, N Talei, R Rennie, R Grant (capt).

LEINSTER v edinburgh, live rte2 (ko 6.05)

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