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Schmidt warns semi-final will be no cakewalk

This is what you do when you are one of the most respected club coaches in Europe and you have watched your team swat the opposition aside as if they were a swarm of harmless bluebottles buzzing around a rubbish tip.

You enter the press conference arena, take your seat at the top table and wait patiently for the opportunity, sure to come, of pointing out the shortcomings in your team's performance.

And Leinster coach Joe Schmidt wasn't short of offerings on that score. "I suppose the scrum," he says, kicking into gear. "That's why Rossie's here." Mike Ross, seated quietly to the coach's left, forces a smile. But Schmidt isn't careless enough to offer a few gnarled forwards up as scapegoats. There's others to be singled out too. Pretty much all of them, in fact.

"Probably the lineout needed to be more accurate too," Schmidt continues. "A couple of times I thought we forced passes. I mean, looking back, in the last few minutes we probably should have been a bit more accurate and got at least one more score. At the same time, I was delighted we defended our own line pretty well and kept them tryless."

Between the coach and his prop forward there was a mutual common theme. It was all very well routing Cardiff in front of a large, friendly crowd on their home patch yesterday, but in an English or French bear pit in three weeks' time, the few careless things that crept in yesterday, particularly when the game was in the bag in the second half, could well be their undoing. Forewarned is forearmed, perhaps.

"It's nice to get the sort of tries we got," Schmidt said, "but at the same time our execution wasn't as accurate as it needed to be. I think Cardiff had a difficult week and in three weeks' time against Clermont or Saracens it's going to be a lot tougher." Ross nodded in agreement. "We're happy with the win," he said, "but we know that the dips in performance we had in the second half isn't going to do us in the semi-final.

"But we're well aware of that. We look at the tough road we had last year and that really stood to us, so we'll just have to deliver a performance the next day because if we do that in three weeks' time against Sarries or Clermont we're going to pay for it. It probably won't be good enough to get us out of it."

And the post-mortem done with, Schmidt was asked to cast his gaze ahead. Which team would he prefer to avoid in the semi-final? Not surprisingly, he declined to offer a definitive response and then, rather surprisingly, he seemed to talk himself into favouring a trip to Twickenham to take on Saracens.

"No preference whatsover," he began. "I think wherever we go, it's going to be relentlessly tough. You have to say, we've taken a step forward from last year but in three weeks' time we play an away semi-final and to win away in a semi-final just doesn't happen very often. You saw Toulouse, overwhelming favourites against Edinburgh, but had to win away from home and it's very, very tough to do so.

"So you know I wouldn't have a preference, but to be honest I wouldn't want to meet Clermont again. We got one up on them last time we played them, but that was here at home, in the close confines of the Aviva, but I wouldn't want to meet them in Bordeaux."

Sunday Indo Sport