Wednesday 17 January 2018

Missed chance just 'glitch' in fine O'Brien display - Schmidt

Hugh Farrelly

LEINSTER coach Joe Schmidt singled out Sean O'Brien for special praise ahead of tomorrow's Heineken Cup rematch with Bath at Lansdowne Road, describing his missed try opportunity last weekend as a "glitch".

O'Brien had a powerful game in the back-row as Leinster ran out 18-13 winners at The Rec, and Schmidt said the flanker had received no 'stick' for going into contact in the second half with three men on his outside and the try-line at their mercy.

"There's not that many guys who can give Sean O'Brien stick," said Schmidt.

"He knew it when he got taken down, he just didn't see Stephen Donald, he thought he'd wait, he'd squeeze it up a bit more to the man in front and then he can put this away, but he was hit before he got it away.

"At the same time I've had a good look through his 18 carries, his steals on the ground and his fairly combative tackling. You'd have to say as a day at the office there was a glitch but there was some pretty good stuff as well."

Schmidt has also been encouraged by Luke Fitzgerald's response to the disappointment of missing out on World Cup selection after another lively display from the winger in Bath.

"Luke contacted me the day he found out (about missing out on the World Cup) and said, 'look what time is training?'. And he hasn't looked back since," said Schmidt.

"He has looked sharp and dangerous when he's carried ball and defensively strong too. It is great that he has been able to nestle in (at wing) and play well there."

While Leinster go into tomorrow's match as heavy favourites to complete back-to-back victories, Schmidt is wary of the Bath threat and believes the English club will have gained belief from last weekend, when they were leading the European champions with 15 minutes to go.

"I think they would have got enough confidence out of the game last week to come over here fully charged," he said.

"To be honest in their performance, they threatened often and didn't quite get the reward at times.

"They dropped a couple of balls when we were under pressure and some of it was really good defending by our guys.

"I remember one midfield scrum in the first half where they had a great platform but Jonny (Sexton) made a great tackle, Jamie (Heaslip) managed to get on the ball and we managed to scramble. It happened a few times -- Matt Banahan could have got on the ball in one really dangerous moment as well.

"So, it will be similar enough in terms of a challenge, it's the nature of the competition," added Schmidt, who is looking forward to playing in front of a record crowd of close to 50,000, dominated by Leinster supporters.

"From a coach's perspective it's fantastic but from a player's perspective, I know the players love playing in the RDS -- it's kind of really where our home is, but the facilities and just the whole stadium at the Aviva are incredibly impressive."

Irish Independent

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