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Joe puts faith in future Leinster leaders

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Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

There are still two matches to be played out before Joe Schmidt's Leinster legacy can be written into the history books.

There have been trophies – two Heineken Cups. And lost finals – two PRO12 leagues. There are two more open for discussion tonight and next week.

Maybe, just maybe, Schmidt's greatest gift to Irish rugby, not Leinster, will be the emphasis he has placed on developing young, indigenous players.

"One of the challenges when you come into a place is you want to leave it in a healthier state than when you came in," he said.

"We've had the potential to play in six finals in the last three years, and I think, retrospectively, you can feel proud of that.

"But any pride you take in that will be in two weeks' time because right here, right now, we're all about the next 36 hours.

"We've got to make sure we get those little processes and little bits of detail that we need to get right as accurate as possible for tomorrow."

Schmidt feels comfortable enough to start loose-head Jack McGrath, 23, lock Quinn Roux, 22, and Rhys Ruddock, 22, in the pack that will confront a mature Stade Francais.

"Yeah, I think we've tested them right through the season, to be honest. Age isn't one of the criteria when we're selecting," he said.

"We're just looking at competency, commitment, prior performance, potential performance, and we do think that this team has the potential to go out and perform well tomorrow night.

"Whether that's good enough to win or lose, the bounce of the ball can decide that. All we can do is control as many of the aspects of the game as we possibly can. Part of that is selection."

It is one thing to talk the talk; quite another to walk the walk in terms of rewarding young players with the burden of expectation when there are those who have proven qualities also in contention, like Cian Healy, Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings, all on the bench.

"I think it is a young side. On average, we've used 1.3 foreign players in the starting 15 during the year," said Schmidt.

"Quinn Roux and Isa Nacewa are both starting this time so we've almost doubled our foreign quota for this game.

"But I think we've really been driven toward giving young guys an opportunity over the last, probably, three years and maybe this is just another example of that."

This is merely about the progress of Leinster as a club that will be able to continue to challenge for silverware when Schmidt, Jonathan Sexton, Nacewa and even Brian O'Driscoll have departed the stage.

The New Zealander is well aware of the threats that can be unleashed tonight by what is, by common consent, an inconsistent Stade, who have, nonetheless, been consistent in this competition.

"It's difficult to talk about Stade. They are a complete team. They have some extraordinary players, like Sergio Parisse and Julien Dupuy, who has a lot of European experience."

The Paris club came up short against Harlequins in a contentious Amlin final in 2011, but have shown resolve to come through Bath and Perpignan in the latter stages of the competition this season.

"I think you get mental strength from wins like they had against Perpignan. I think you get mental strength from frustration when you don't quite get the win you felt you might have deserved (in 2011).

"It gives you that much more determination to get it the next time you have an opportunity. They've worked really hard to get this opportunity."


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