LEINSTER see off Edinburgh but coach Schmidt left to worry over lack of fluidityIt is still that time of the year, again, when provincial coaches wrestle with the anxiety brought on by the Player Welfare Programme.
Even so, Leinster made it three out of four wins in the PRO12 League against Edinburgh (22-16) to move up to fourth place, just two points behind leaders Scarlets.
The drip-feed return of Ireland internationals, the spectre of injury and the ring-rust that comes with the onset of another season are not new to Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.
The knowledge that everything came right at just the right time last year is past history. He plans for the future and works in the moment as it happens.
And it is not quite happening just yet: “I am paranoid. I am nervous. There is no certainty that things, of their own volition, suddenly merge and you get some great fluidity,” he said.
“It is a work in progress at the moment. Inevitably, even when you get guys back who have been playing with us for years, they’re still finding their feet.
“It’s fitful in its preparation. You |get what you get during the week really. That’s something that is frustrating because we’re looking for more continuity than that,” he offered.
“It is something that, to a degree, is understandable as well. I thought we had a couple of great opportunities in the game, maybe, to put a bit of distance between us and them on the scoreboard.”
Out-half Jonathan Sexton and Brendan Macken, twice, breached the Edinburgh defence for tries to put Leinster within sniffing distance of a bonus-point. They could not quite manage a fourth due to their own impatience and the Scots’ defiance.
“They’ve got more steel than they had last year, certainly in this competition,” Schmidt said of Edinburgh. “Even though they had the ability last year, they’re starting to grow into that ability. They’re a very tough team to break down.”
Michael Bradley’s men could have accepted their fate earlier, could have fallen away for Leinster to nab the bonus-point. But, they were skillful, as always, muscular, resourceful and committed to the final whistle.
“It is indicative of their steel this
year as compared to last year (in the PRO12). But, it is not overly surprising that we are just a few paces off things at the moment.”
There is a pattern emerging here. |It was a few short weeks into Schmidt’s reign that the knives were out for him when he lost three of his first four in the League. He followed this by submitting in two of the first three last season.
Therefore, the general trend has been for an improvement in terms of the win-loss ratio. But a perfectionist is only happy with anything other than perfection or the next best thing – a trophy.
“It has been no different the last two years really. We’ve stumbled along in the early season with the amount of changes.
“We’ve used nearly |40 players already. With that, you’re never going to get continuity.”
The frustrations of the Irish system are something Schmidt has had to deal with from day one of a |three-year contract. This doesn’t prevent his irritation at planning on-the-hoof.
Worse again, there is a two-day training camp in Carton House |which will deprive Schmidt of that momentum and rhythm he is so desperately in need of before the start of the Heineken Cup at home to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday, October 13.
“We’ve got one training this week on Wednesday to prepare for a Friday game. I thought Connacht did a great job going to Glasgow (on Friday night). They rested a whole host of players,” he warned.
“I think the Sportsground is going to be very, very difficult next week. I think I have every right to be uncomfortable about the prospect of going there with compromised preparation.”
Schmidt was quick to point out that losing scrum-half Eoin Reddan (quad) just before the game and Gordon D’Arcy in the 18th minute were not exactly ideal. Further tweaks had to be made.
Centre D’Arcy was forced to retire with what looks like an innocuous enough rib injury and Cian Healy simply ran out of steam.
There is a good chance full-back Rob Kearney will have the chance to, in Schmidt’s words, “handle a ball rather than a water bottle” in Galway next Friday night.