Irish lock Mike McCarthy has said that the decision to leave Connacht and join Leinster was one of the hardest he has had to make in his rugby career.
McCarthy, who is in his sixth season with Connacht in his second spell at the Sportsground, will join Leinster on a three-year deal at the end of the season and his decision led to a pre-Christmas spat between Schmidt and Sears.
"That was nothing to do with me," McCarthy said. "My decision was made and I just want to concentrate on my rugby, keep working hard and finish playing as hard as I can for Connacht."
McCarthy, who came from Wasps to Connacht for the 2003-04 season before heading to Newcastle for three years, was outstanding for Ireland in the Autumn Internationals.
He has played 145 games for Connacht and has been a key member of their side over the past few years. McCarthy said he mulled over the decision for some time but now wants to look forward and finish out the season on a high with Connacht before heading to their eastern rivals.
"It was a big decision, but that's gone now. I am looking forward to a new challenge but obviously I want to keep playing as hard as I can and give everything I can to Connacht's finish to the season."
First up is a desire to finish the Heineken Cup campaign with a third pool win when they take on Zebre at the Sportsground tomorrow night.
"It is a short turnaround now with the game on Friday," he said. "We need to come back raring to go in front of our home fans. It was disappointing against Quins (a 47-8 loss) but we need to finish the Heineken Cup with a bang."