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Schmidt's men can crack Cardiff and storm clear

WHAT is good for Welsh international rugby can be bad for their clubs.

Cardiff will feel this way as they travel to Leinster with eight frontline internationals engaged against Australia at The Millennium Stadium tomorrow.

This is of no concern to coach Joe Schmidt. He will not countenance any hint of complacency as his players set about moving ahead of The Ospreys in the duel for the top of the PRO12 League for 24 hours, at least.

Schmidt has shown complete confidence in his squad by selecting a side that has, arguably, nine first-choice players missing, not including Brian O'Driscoll. This spreads the ethos of genuine competition.

Fly-half Ian Madigan (pictured) is playing his way into the role of playmaker and controller. Sean O'Brien starts at number eight where he should explode off the back of the scrum and David Kearney and Fionn Carr are given their heads on the wings.

Just like Glasgow before them, Cardiff are on a run of form that leaves them high on confidence. They will take moving, even though they have won just once in Dublin since 2003.

"It's a massive game for us and we can't use the excuse that our best players are off on international duty," said joint head coach Justin Burnell. "Leinster is the number one team in Europe and a formidable force. That doesn't faze us. We have to go to places like that and perform in order to become a better team.

"We are going there with a view that we have to perform and I would be devastated if we didn't. We have got a fantastic mindset."

It would seem the introduction of Burnell and backs coach Gareth Baber has freshened up a squad that never delivered on their potential under Dai Young.

This is the best place in this league to lay down a marker and there is no better boost than the return from a back injury of the remarkably durable Xavier Rush.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster v Cardiff Blues, The RDS, Tonight (KO 8.05) Live TG4

Leinster: I Nacewa; D Kearney; E O'Malley, F McFadden, F Carr; I Madigan, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, N White, L Cullen (capt), S Sykes, R Ruddock, S Jennings, S O'Brien.

Cardiff: C Czekaj; R Mustoe, C Laulala, G Evans, T James; C Sweeney, R Rees; J Yapp, R Tyrrell, T Filise, C Hill, P Tito (capt), M Molitika, J Navidi, X Rush.


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