Sport Rugby

Sunday 23 July 2017

Rest assured Schmidt won't take back seat

Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Joe Schmidt is considering taking a few days off. Yesterday was given over to a review of Friday night's wrap-up against Racing in Paris, where Leinster secured a fat pay day at the Aviva in the Heineken Cup quarter-final, and today will be taken up checking out the 'A' team, after which he reckons he might take a little break.

You wouldn't bank on it though. Leinster's coach is buzzing at the minute, energised by a team playing winning rugby. And not too bothered about who is around the next corner.

"At this stage no, to be honest," he says. "It doesn't matter at this stage but certainly on Sunday we'll be looking at the various ramifications of results and trying to sort out exactly where that puts us and who we end up with so that we can maybe do a bit of quiet preparation while a lot of our players are away, and hopefully have things lined up and ready for them for that quarter-final.

"It is really important having home advantage. That game last year, if it had been reversed and played in Clermont, maybe the result would have been different. As it was the result was tough enough to get and I've no doubt that even though we've got the home quarter-final when you get to this stage of a Heineken Cup it's anybody's game. I'm not sure what the permutations are or who we could get. We'll have to wait until Sunday."

There are not many boxes to be ticked on Schmidt's agenda just now but one of them -- the main one -- is the issue of Jonny Sexton and signing on the dotted line. This is outside the control of the coach and at this point he is wishing it was sorted.

"I know that Jonny is keen to stay at Leinster," he says. "We don't control the contractual situation but I do know Jonny is keen to stay. He feels that he is enjoying himself and that he is developing. His enjoyment dotting down a couple of times today (Friday) and having the opportunity to express himself. I think certainly from a rugby perspective he's a happy young man and hopefully contractual things can get sorted out in the very near future and he can be doing the same in a green jersey for a very long time to come."

And Sean O'Brien, currently the outstanding backrower in the country who is waiting for endorsement from Declan Kidney?

"Look, you'd have to ask the Irish coaching staff. If they don't want him we'll happily have him back fresh. I hope for Seanie he gets selected. He plays any of the three back row positions. His game involvement is at such a high level and he repeats game involvement consistently for us. He certainly has been a massive part of what has happened in the last sort of three months."

What has happened in that period is that Schmidt has played his cards very wisely. After a dodgy start the coach is now running an operation that is in top condition, with a raft of players queuing up to get into the team. Good for Leinster and good for Ireland. And about to get better.

"Guys were very motivated and I think this win was really important to us for our supporters. We wanted to make sure we got a home draw in front of our supporters. We'd a massive following tonight. There was a great amount of noise from our supporters and now they don't have to travel too far to give us a lot of support in a couple of months' time."

Sunday Indo Sport

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