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Schmidt salutes Auva'a progression

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has been impressed by the distinct improvement shown by his fill-in number eight Leo Auva'a, the Old Belvedere All-Ireland League winner.

Auva'a brings to the table a set of physical tools simply not found in Ireland. He is a fleet-footed, multi-skilled force of 6'4" high and 19 stones wide, blessed with power, evasive footwork and soft hands.

"The thing that has impressed me is the amount his work rate has gone up. He has carried the ball 36 times in the last two games, which is a phenomenal carry rate," said Schmidt.

"Of those 36 times, he has gone over the gain line 32 times which is pretty difficult to do all the time from number eight. Inevitably, if you don't get go-forward ball, you pick it up under pressure.


"His tackle rate is the second best from Saturday. Those are the things that are a little unseen. He is (a) fairly, dynamic, explosive player, but he is actually quite hard-working as well."

On the injury front, Schmidt should be able to call on the services of Ireland U20 sensation Andrew Conway at home to Connacht in a provincial derby at the RDS on Saturday.

Back-five forwards Kevin McLaughlin and Ben Marshall, prop Nathan White and flanker Dominic Ryan were back on the training paddock and could come into contention for game time depending on how their bodies react this week.

Centre Luke Fitzgerald did not train yesterday. He was rested from the accumulated damage accrued from an ongoing injury. But he will be made available for Connacht.