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Schmidt aiming for five-point haul in Zebre hunt

Coach Joe Schmidt will take nothing for granted, but he will not be happy with anything less than five points against winless Zebre.

LEINSTER v Zebre, The RDS,

Tomorrow, 6.0 (Live RTE2)

It is sadly a measure of the PRO12 League that the greatest value to this match, over and above the five points on offer, is the flow, the continuity it will bring to Leinster ahead of Clermont Auvergne in nine days' time.

There was the heartening view of Sean O'Brien ripping ball at the breakdown and getting into his groove on the ball in Glasgow on a miserable night last Friday. The importance of the Tullow man cannot be overstated.

For all the worthy attributes of Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings and even Jamie Heaslip, they do not bring the game-breaking punch of one of the hardest runners in Europe.

In truth, Schmidt has to rely on the manipulation of defences given that he has just two explosive carriers in his first choice forward eight, the other, of course, being Cian Healy.

True to form, Leinster will keep a host of moves shelved for tomorrow night in what should be a display of high tempo rather than innovation.

The second row conundrum got decidedly easier to predict with the crashing to earth of the dreadfully unlucky South African Quinn Roux in Glasgow. He will be out for four-to-five months.

Increasingly, captain Leo Cullen is having to carry the burden more than ever without the added value of a Nathan Hines or a Brad Thorn at his side. To the naked eye, Devin Toner appears to be on an upward curve.

He is stronger in the carry and more difficult for tacklers to separate from the ball.

Obviously, the video review forum is throwing up issues that have prevented him from moving into the automatic selection slot, especially at a time when Leinster are short on options. That rugby cliché 'living in the moment' means that Zebre cannot be taken lightly, even though they are adrift of the rest of the clubs in the league.

The competition for inclusion against Clermont Auvergne should be all the motivation the players need to entertain the near certainty of five points.

ZEBRE: R Trevisan, L Sarto, G Garcia (capt), M Pratichetti, S Sinoti, D Halangahu, T Tebaldi; F Cristiano, M Bergamasco, N Cattina, J Sole, Q Geldenhuys, D Ryan, C Festuccia, M Aguero.

Verdict: Leinster


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