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Double gazing: Schmidt shows faith in squad as pack shuffled for Blues shot at history

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt is going nowhere for another year, at least. He has always fulfilled his professional contracts at Bay of Plenty, Auckland Blues and Clermont-Auvergne.

How could he in this wonderful climate? "When you have weather like this, it is pretty hard to give up Ireland -- both days of it," he laughed.

"There will be a whole new set of challenges (next season), a whole new set of expectations, more than ever. That, in itself, is exciting".

The main questions, however, are can Leinster keep Schmidt beyond the summer of 2013?

Will the IRFU tempt him into international rugby? Or will what he calls "the pull factor of family" take him home to New Zealand?

These are the unknown elements that hang over Leinster's attempt to do what they could not last year, claim the Heineken Cup-PRO12 League double.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney's press conference style is to 'say nothing', keep everyone in the dark, by refusing to highlight one player over another.

Schmidt takes the opposite approach by often alluding to every player on the opposition as a source of danger, thus keeping everyone in the dark by blinding them with information.

The New Zealander's determination to dwell on The Ospreys, one individual at a time, leaves his players free to be "process focused" on what they have to do.

Once again, Schmidt has shown trust in his squad by making four changes, two influenced by a directive from the IRFU in relation to the tour to New Zealand in two weeks' time.


Heinke van der Merwe comes in for Cian Healy (dead leg) at prop, Shane Jennings for Sean O'Brien, who has had keyhole surgery on his cartilage, at openside, Sean Cronin for Richardt Strauss at hooker and Devin Toner for Brad Thorn in the second row in the four changes from the Heineken Cup final.

O'Brien underwent an operation on his knee to give him the best possible chance of being available for the Ireland tour to New Zealand, a case of the national interest taking precedence over the provincial one.

Healy may or may not feature from the bench tomorrow. On advice from the medics, Schmidt was "not willing to put him at risk" to start against Adam Jones. Jack McGrath is on standby to make the bench.

Schmidt has also shown faith in his squad by springing Devin Toner and Sean Cronin into action from the first whistle, asking Thorn and Strauss to make an impact later on as the emotional fatigue from the Heineken Cup may start to seep through.

"Dev has had more game time than any other forward this year. He is a long man. He does drop weight quite quickly if he's played too often. We are conscious of looking after Dev the last while," said Schmidt.

"But, he has come and played some really good cameos for us. We think he's deserving of the opportunity. He's pretty fired up to go out there and play well.


"He started last season really well and then dropped three or four kilos of muscle mass. He just didn't quite have the same impact.

"We have worked hard at getting that muscle mass back to where he can contribute as best he can. We're pretty happy with his condition."

Schmidt has seen it right to give Cronin his 11th start of the season: "He has always had that natural, robust ball carry. But, he's brought some other elements to his game now," admitted Schmidt.

"Inevitably, when you go to a new set-up -- he came in late because of the World Cup -- it took him a while to get comfortable with some of the systems we try to operate both on attack and defence."

Leinster will need to be sharp at both ends of the pitch to deny The Ospreys.


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