Schmidt hails win in Treviso
YOU couldn't blame Leinster coach Joe Schmidt for affording himself a quiet moment of satisfaction in Italy on Saturday.
It had been a fair measure of how far his players have come in a short space of time in a distant land.
In September 2010, a mere three games into his three-year deal as Leinster coach, Benetton Treviso bullied the life out of the Irish province in The Magners League. The knives were out for Schmidt even before his back had been turned. Ridiculous really. With or without hindsight.
On Saturday, Leinster book-ended their 30-20 defeat of the same Treviso with a lightening start and cool finish to remain joint leaders beside The Ospreys at the apex of the PRO12 League.
"Look, I was delighted with the performance. We had to make sure that physically we were very much present. We probably had less of the ball than they did," he said.
"But, defensively, we never really looked in too much stress. It was a solid, workmanlike performance."
Perhaps, the greatest influence of Schmidt has been his develpoment of players who were on the fringes of the action when he arrived in Dublin. Out-half Ian Madigan, centre Eoin O'Malley, wing Fergus McFadden and lock Devin Toner are starting to lead rather than follow.
Schmidt has managed to foster the competitive spirit of all involved by rotating his squad -- there were nine changes from the Heineken Cup tussle with Glasgow Warriors, six in the pack -- to stunning effect.
His man management has been assisted by the IRFU's Player Welfare Programme, which limits the playing participation of his elite Ireland internationals. They have to follow doctors' orders, even when they don't want to.
Thus, he was able to press the reinforcement button to introduce the sort of impact that would test the best resources in this league. The rejuvenated Jamie Heaslip and progressive Kevin McLaughlin added firepower.
"The guys who played the first 50-to-60 minutes played very well and put us in front initially and guys like Jamie and Kevin, coming off the bench, added value as well. It allowed us to keep control in the last quarter," reflected Schmidt.
Leinster showed composure to close out Treviso and, better again, suffered no obvious knocks, only making tactical replacements when and where Schmidt saw fit.
Fifth-placed Cardiff Blues travel to The RDS under the Friday night lights in four days' time ahead of The Ospreys hosting third-placed Munster the next evening.