Schmidt's blue note

Leinster boss taking Cardiff seriously in Cup lottery

Des Berry

The Cardiff Blues are not Toulouse. They're not Leicester Tigers. They're not a giant of the European game on paper or in reality.

It is a hard fact that Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has had to guard against complacency from external sources since the quarter-final pairings were decided in January.

The court of public opinion can be a distraction and a 'fools' paradise' for those who see the world simply in black and white and as a competition for the survival of the fittest. It is never that straight-forward.

"Man-for-man, if you put their individuals up -- some of their key players -- against their Toulouse equivalents, they stack up really well," warned Schmidt.


"You can say they're not Leicester or Toulouse, but, at the same time, for us, it is a knock-out game. It is as much about us as it is about them.

"We've got to make sure that we have everything set to go, that we do what we need to do really well and hope that it is enough to get past them."

The danger posed by Toulouse last year at The Aviva was ratcheted up when out-half David Skrela's penalty rebounded off the left upright for the alert Florian Fritz to snatch a freak try converted by Skrela. This turned a mole hill into a mountain.

"The vagaries of sport are such that if someone picks up a yellow card or a ball comes back off an upright for a freak try, as it did against Toulouse last season, suddenly there is a gap on the scoreboard," said Schmidt.

"If that happens with Cardiff, how does that affect their psyche if they have consolidated this week from the negative media, tightened their group up and get up in the game? It could quickly become a very, very tough assignment."

The Leinster and Irish public have been here before. The lessons from what Wales did to Ireland at the 2011 World Cup were not fully comprehended until Stephen Ferris's controversial tackle gave full-back Leigh Halfpenny the chance to end the argument.

There is a strong parallel to be drawn between what happened in the Six Nations and what could happen in this Heineken Cup quarter-final.

Was there a touch of naivety about the way the Irish supporters expected the Six Nations to be an act of quick revenge for what happened in New Zealand?


"I don't think those people (the public) were naive. There was evidence to suggest that would happen," he said.

Ultimately, the Welsh won out. Halfpenny, wing Alex Cuthbert and lock Bradley Davies were there that day. The Aviva will hold no fears for them, just the first of five good memories from the Six Nations.

"Wales were down on players. Cardiff are down on players.

"There was a belief that one team (Ireland) was superior to the other (Wales)," issued Schmidt.

"One team got in front, but never really controlled the game and the other team came over the top of them and won it.

"I would hate reading about the same thing on Sunday morning happening to us.

"That is something you can't control. All you can control is what your team is working towards."

In order to fashion a semi-final away to either Saracens at Twickenham or Clermont-Auvergne in Bordeaux, the direct, hard-running Kevin McLaughlin (left) has been given the nod over in-form Shane Jennings, with Sean O'Brien operating on the openside.

Cardiff have pulled a rabbit out of the hat in plumping for Connacht-bound goal machine Dan Parks at fly-half in an indication that they will play safe from inside their own half.

Playing it safe has never been the Leinster way.

Schmidt will want his players to play without fear or complacency.

Leinster: R Kearney; I Nacewa, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, B Thorn, L Cullen (capt), K McLaughlin, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Cardiff Blues: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, C Laulala, D Hewitt, T James; D Parks, L Williams; G Jenkins, M Breeze, S Andrews, B Davies, J Down, M Paterson, M Williams, X Rush (capt).