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Leinster hard work pays off

THE glass stadium will be more than half-full when Leinster entertain Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup quarter-final on the second weekend in April.

The Leinster treasurer will, probably, have a glance towards the Aviva. It is always important to stay financially sound and, also, to offer something to supporters,” said coach Joe Schmidt after the 25-3 win over Montpellier on Saturday.

“We do have supporters from throughout Leinster who come into the city for these games and just love supporting the team. We love the support they give us.”

The magnificence of Munster away to Northampton Saints denied Leinster a first-seed position in the knockout phase of a competition that still includes three Irish provinces, one Welsh club, one Scottish club – that is five from the PRO12 league – one English side and two from France.

Schmidt was content to dwell on the positives from an impressive Pool Three campaign that produced five wins and one draw away to Montpellier in round one.

“We’ve shown a really good balance,” offered Schmidt.

“We’ve shown resolve. We’ve shown character. At the same time, |we’ve shown some pretty clinical, effective stuff as well.

“There is no noticeable advantage to finishing one or four because you get a home quarter-final. For us, it was all about getting the win.”

The bonus-point, four-try aim ran a poor second to protecting Ireland’s frontline internationals for what is sure to be a testing Six Nations tournament.

“It was also about looking after players. Sean O’Brien took a ding on his shoulder. Rob Kearney rolled his ankle. It was important we got them off. They’ve obviously got (Six

Nations) games coming up.”

It was the decisive factor in pulling a borderline fit Jonathan Sexton (right) out of the game

“With Johnny, we knew he could possibly play,” said Schmidt. “It was a double-edged sword. We wanted to show faith in Ian Madigan and we wanted to make sure Johnny didn’t get into further trouble.

“Ian Madigan started and he will benefit from the experience. It is a great opportunity for a young man to play in between Isaac Boss, Isa Nacewa and Gordon D’Arcy, making those calls and helping him out.”

It was also a day for some of those on the fringe to cut their teeth.

“Rhys Ruddock started and showed the powerhouse that he can be,” remarked Schmidt. “Tough day at the office for Jamie Hagan. (Na’ama) Leleimalefaga is a very strong man. He tends to angle in. A couple of times he got Jamie and Jamie ended up horizontal. It is part of investing in time and growth for him.”

Nonetheless, Schmidt was as effusive about Leinster’s 12-minute |tryline stand, where they refused to cough up five points to Montpellier as they ran in three well-worked tries finished by Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney and Cian Healy.

“When it was really tough in the first-half on our own line, ‘The Boys in Blue’ ringing around the stadium is a massive boost for players getting up off the ground and back in the defensive line.”

Now, the work really begins.