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Schmidt insists hands are tied

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt is already walking a tightrope between what he would like to do and what the IRFU will allow him to do.

"It is tough enough. We seem to be shuffling the deck a lot more often than I would have liked," he admitted, before a Leinster session at University College Dublin yesterday.

Obviously, Schmidt has been taken aback by the restrictions enforced on him by the Player Welfare Programme, limiting his top players to cameo inclusions, as a long injury list also plays a part in their terrible start to the season.

"To be honest, we haven't really played a 'helluva' game plan. We've struggled for a platform and we haven't really created too much with the ball which is disappointing and something we would like to turn around.

"If we can get the platform, we'll certainly look to play. But, it will probably be relatively simple because we will have changes again."

The latest setback arrived with the news that second row Ed O'Donoghue (knee) joins captain Leo Cullen (shoulder) in the casualty ward. There is compensation in the likely return of Nathan Hines.

Worse than that, however, Jonathan Sexton is by no means certain to start against Munster on Saturday: "We'll make a decision on Thursday. There are difficulties, even if Johnny is 100pc fit. Is it better to take the risk, to put him in and have more disruption because of the quality of the player you bring in?"

Leinster have bitten the dust in three of four League matches. It isn't going to get any easier when League leaders Munster come to the Aviva Stadium that is less than 1,000 tickets short of a capacity sell-out at the moment.

Besides selection and injury, the basic tenets of the game were abandoned by Leinster in Edinburgh last Friday night. It is simple. You make your tackles or you make life difficult for yourselves.

Is it the change in the defensive system? Is it poor technique? Is it poor attitude to contact? "We haven't done anything different in the defensive system other than miss tackles," he said. "The system errors have been quite low. It is just one-on-ones missed.

"Guys will put their hands up and say that we need to do better one-on-one. Tackle misses are unforgivable at this level."

Despite the evolution of the game, the ongoing influence of set-piece domination remains a must-have for coaches all over the world. Leinster have not been able to exploit their scrum superiority and have suffered from a wayward lineout.

"We've had nine scrum feeds in the last two games. That doesn't give you a helluva platform when you have some of the scrums outside of the attacking zone you would like to have," stated Schmidt.


"Referees are also looking to give free-kicks and penalties pretty quickly at scrum time rather than persevere and try to get a scrum that is functional.

"At lineout time, yeah, it has been a little difficult. It is an area where we need to get a platform."

Worryingly, Schmidt did not seem fully aware of the special nature of the Leinster-Munster match-up. His predecessor Michael Cheika conceded he "underestimated the meaning and intensity" of the provincial derby in his first season at the club.

"I don't actually know the history behind it. I know Munster reasonably well because they were in the same pool when I was (with Clermont-Auvergne) in France," said Schmidt.

"I know that Munster are formidable. I also know that we had two relatively comfortable wins over them when I was over there."

Perhaps, he has inherited inferior players to those he worked with at Clermont-Auvergne?

"These guys (Leinster players) are every bit as good (as the Clermont players)," said Schmidt. "The next stage is getting them to believe that."