herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Schmidt's relief at great escape

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt had the look and the sense of a man who knew it could have gone either way.

Is the pressure of being head coach greater than that of the assistant? "We live and die the game," he returned. "Jono Gibbes (the forwards coach) lives and dies by what we do as well. We were both taking a step towards the guillotine around the 70th minute mark," he said, after seeing Leinster launch a late two-try salvo.

"I don't think it was any different when I was in France. It might be my name attached to the team, but, jeez, whether you are in behind or up in front of the team, you still live and die by it. It is still just pressure."



dreadful

There was a dreadful sense of déjà vu hovering over Schmidt's head until tries from centre Fergus McFadden and emergency out-half Ian Madigan sealed the fate of Cardiff Blues for the unlikely return of a bonus point (34-23) in their first win of the season at the RDS.

In more ways than one, Schmidt had been here before with Clermont-Auvergne in the Heineken Cup quarter-final last season. It turned out differently this time.

"The last time I was here, it looked like we might win and then we lost. It looked like we might win at half-time and it then looked like we might lose again.

"It is very much a relief to get through and the icing on the cake was Madigan snaffling a bonus point at the end. It was fantastic," he said.

The slim margins that divide winners and losers were once again in evidence as Cardiff struck the front for the first time when dead-eye Dan Parks belted his third penalty to make it 23-20 in the 62nd minute.

It looked like the unfolding of a disaster when Jonathan Sexton pulled out with a quad injury suffered during his sixth kick of the warm-up. It was emergency stations.

But, Madigan took the news of his promotion in his stride: "Aw, fine, I'll take it from there," he said, or something close to those words, according to Schmidt.

It was a move that could have backfired, especially with the unflappable Parks in the mood to take all the points that came his way.

"I have got a lot of confidence in the young players. If they don't show that confidence, they don't get an opportunity and they don't know how to close out that game," emphasised Schmidt.

"It was great for Mads on reflection. I was worried we lost Johnny so late. He had run the team for the whole week. To lose that at the front end of the warm-up, let alone the game, was nerve-wrecking, but not for young Ian Madigan. He took it (his chance) not too badly," smiled Schmidt.



concerns

In fact, Jonathan Sexton (strained calf), Shane Horgan (bruised hip) and Shane Jennings (calf) are the main injury concerns ahead of the next round.

The Ireland out-half's is thought to be the most serious. The management are waiting on results of a scan on his quad before Schmidt decides on the most effective way to counter Benetton Treviso in Italy next Saturday.

He will look to keep the rookies involved and retain a simple but effective approach: "We are not looking to reinvent the wheel. We are looking to improve the detail of what we do.

"When there are a lot of players coming in and out, it is the best remedy to keep things nice and simple and try to do those simple things as well as we can."

Sometimes the nice guy does win. Now, all he has to do is keep doing it.

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