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17 May 2013; Leinster's Jonathan Sexton, left, and Isa Nacewa lift the Amlin Challenge Cup. Amlin Challenge Cup Final 2012/13, Leinster v Stade Francais, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

17 May 2013; Leinster's Jonathan Sexton, left, and Isa Nacewa lift the Amlin Challenge Cup. Amlin Challenge Cup Final 2012/13, Leinster v Stade Francais, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

17 May 2013; Leinster's Jonathan Sexton, left, and Isa Nacewa lift the Amlin Challenge Cup. Amlin Challenge Cup Final 2012/13, Leinster v Stade Francais, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

RABODIRECT PRO12 LEAGUE FINAL

Ulster v Leinster, The RDS

Today 4.45 (RTé2, TG4, BBC1)

Joe Schmidt has been here before. Clermont-Auvergne carried the burden of nearly men in the French Top 14 for more than 100 years before the Bouclier de Brennus breakthrough in 2010.

They had taken the medicine of ten French Championship defeats, the previous three in 2007, 2008 and 2009 to build what many considered an insurmountable psychological barrier.

Eventually Schmidt, an assistant to his countryman Vern Cotter, was part of the solution to this problem and the subsequent spontaneous outpouring of emotion.

Now, Schmidt is on his final voyage as the captain of the good ship Leinster. There have been two Heineken Cups and one Amlin Challenge Cup won in a spectacular reign.

There have been two league finals in his time, none won. He still talks with "massive frustration" about the 2012 final defeat to the Ospreys.

"Yeah, I think I was incredibly frustrated last year," he said.

"We were nine points up with eight minutes to go and it was our scrum feed. I've relived that a lot of times, as no doubt have the referee assessors."

At the time, Schmidt was outraged at the refereeing of the scrum by Frenchman Romain Poite. He has found it difficult to let go of that one.

"I have massive frustration that's carried over from that game. I think Munster were better than us in Thomond Park (in 2011). They absolutely deserved it.

The bitterness of 2012 will fuel his ambition to make 2013 the year of the double: "But, we're forward-thinking," he said.

"We're looking ahead to this one. It's a game alone. We don't really think in terms of the history of finals."

 

DELIVER

"While they may be written about it's not something that we think about.

"It's just about trying to get out there, try to get as much of what we can dead right in the first 40 minutes; come in and take a breather, reset what we need to do, go out and try to then deliver again.

"So it will be incredibly satisfying if it comes off," added Schmidt.

"In three years, we've played 99 competitive games. That's all you can do. We haven't won the final one on all the occasions that we would have liked to have, but there's a lot of people on holidays now that make us delighted to be still working."

Schmidt views the mini-battle between the back threes as one which could swing the game one way or the other as Rob Kearney, Isa Nacewa and Fergus McFadden prepare for a real test.

"The battle of the back threes tomorrow could be a place where it could spin the result – with Jared Payne in-between Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble, you have international quality across the back.

"If you had to pick from a whole lot of individual or unit-based battles, that is one of the ones that will be both entertaining and absorbing."

Schmidt also sees Stuart Olding as "one of the finds of the season. He's got great acceleration. He's got really good balance, steps really well, particularly of the left foot".

There will certainly be particular interest to see how 'the find' of the season Olding copes with Ian Madigan, in a one-on-one between two original out-halfs playing further out.

Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding, T Bowe; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (Capt), D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams.

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll, I Madigan, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.


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