Thursday 22 February 2018

Schmidt wary of Ospreys' threat

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JOE Schmidt is assessing the damage done to his squad by his fellow New Zealanders as he sweats on the fitness of three of his key players.

With Brian O'Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney among the walking wounded from Ireland's 38-18 defeat to the All Blacks last weekend, the Leinster coach has his fingers crossed that they will not miss the Heineken Cup double-header against Clermont-Auvergne next month.

O'Driscoll looks like he will make a swift recovery from his shoulder injury, but while Schmidt is "hopeful" Fitzgerald might make the second match against the French champions on December 18 at the Aviva Stadium, he said the extent of Kearney's surgery recovery was unclear.

This Sunday, Leinster take on the Ospreys in Swansea looking to extend their winning run to six matches. But after beating Edinburgh and the Dragons without their frontline internationals in their last two games, Schmidt believes they face a step up to beat the champions.

Leinster travel with a clean bill of health and in confident form after long-term absentees Trevor Hogan and Ed O'Donoghue came through last Friday's victory at the RDS.

Schmidt will name his team on Friday and he believes that while the hosts will be also be without their international stars, Sean Holley's men will be hard to beat.

"We're expecting an even tougher test," he said. "They got a win against Connacht in the last minute, which was a pretty good performance considering Connacht weren't too far from full strength.

"We had a few bumps and bruises, but that's pretty much it and we're hopeful that those guys will be available. We've a nine-day turnaround so we've got enough time to get anyone with bumps and bruises back on their feet."

Irish Independent

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