Saturday 24 February 2018

Schmidt to bide time over Reddan for Munster tie

David Kelly

David Kelly

Champions Leinster may have launched their Heineken Cup campaign yesterday, but in their own minds the trophy had already been handed back.

It's the mental stuff of champions, you understand.

As captain Leo Cullen averred, the draw for this year's competition, just a few days after their glorious final triumph, prompted a clamour amongst their European rivals to dethrone them.

From the miracle, suddenly the routine.

"You don't really get much of a chance to reflect in this sport," smiles a rueful Cullen. "They have the draw straight away and you're off again. But we're excited about it. It's going to be a long year."

The not insignificant matter of this Friday's gentle warm-up against Munster in the Aviva will quench the thirst for the Heineken Cup that always overflows. Leinster coach Joe Schmidt revealed yesterday that scrum-half Eoin Reddan has emerged as a doubt for the first renewal of Europe's most intense rivalry after taking sick late last week.

And it remains to be seen whether Schmidt will decide to take the plunge with his battered and bruised Ireland captain, Brian O'Driscoll, especially with a gruelling trip to rising French stars Montpellier due a week later.

"I think there are still a few guys who need to do maybe just do a bit of contact work to tick them off to make sure they are fully fit to play," said Schmidt.

"The internationals are back on deck. We integrated about half of them last weekend -- the guys who had not had enough game time.

"There was a fair bit of rustiness there. Inevitably there may be a little bit of rustiness in the game on Friday, but I hope there it is very, very little because you can't afford too much rustiness against Munster.

"We have maybe a slight hiccup with Eoin Reddan, who has been a little bit sick last week, and so we'll see how he comes through training."

This fixture kick-started Leinster's season last time around -- not to mind the confession from Schmidt that it may have strengthened his job security -- but only selection issues will cause him sleepless nights this week.

"They'll be decisions that we think best suit the game that's coming up and the balance of game time that guys need," he says. "So we'll favour some of the internationals who haven't played.

"You could take it for granted that some of those guys will play and they will play in the place of some of the guys who have done a really good job for us so far.

"We need to get everyone back into the environment and we want to spread it out over two games. And of course you can't play the international guys all the time, so you have to pick and choose."

Irish Independent

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