Sport Rugby

Monday 11 December 2017

Leinster to make late Sexton decision ahead of tightrope walk with Munster

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Not 20 yards behind the goal at Leinster's training pitch at UCD yesterday, two students were practising walking the tightrope along a cable they had erected between two trees.

If Joe Schmidt spotted them as he put his side through their paces, he would have done so with empathy. The New Zealander is still bedding in as Michael Cheika's replacement, but things will get increasingly dicey for him should the next three weeks not go his way.

Schmidt's Leinster have made a stuttering start to the Magners League campaign, winning their home game against Cardiff Blues but falling to away defeats in Glasgow, Treviso and Edinburgh.

It's not the form Leinster fans have become accustomed to, and with arch-rivals Munster next up at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday, ahead of the opening two rounds of the Heineken Cup, the team drastically need to turn things around.

Shorn of his front-line internationals for much of the opening games, injuries haven't helped Schmidt's cause and again he must wait and see whether out-half Jonny Sexton will be involved, having been a late withdrawal last Friday.

Second-row Ed O'Donoghue has been ruled out with a knee injury, but Scottish international Nathan Hines comes back into the squad.

Schmidt remains unsure as to whether he will pitch Sexton straight back into the action on Saturday against a Munster side he feels have been able to manage their resources better so far this season.

"We'll make a decision on Thursday," he said. "Obviously, one of the difficulties is, even if Jonny's 100pc, he hasn't trained with us; he won't train until Thursday.

"Again we take the risk of 'is it better to put him in and have more disruption (if he pulls out)?'. Because of the quality of the play he brings, that's a decision we'll make on Thursday. It is not ideal. We seem to be shuffling the deck a lot more often than I would have liked.

"They (Munster) have probably had a pretty good injury count. They've got a fairly experienced squad, too. They've still got guys they can roll out there, like (Alan) Quinlan who's played 200 games.

"They've got a good experienced core. Ours is probably a little bit younger but there's no excuses there. They've learned some things over the last few weeks; we're off the pace but not too far off it after four games. There's still a long way to go.

"Look, I don't actually know the history behind it (the rivalry). I know Munster reasonably well. I think Munster could have a fair bit of confidence coming into this on the back of their performances so far."

A major part of Leinster's problems thus far have come from a lack of possession, which has limited a frustrated Schmidt's ability to implement his game plan.

And the former schoolteacher is looking for his players to learn their lesson this week and create some room for the backline against Munster.

"To be honest, we haven't really played a hell of a game plan," he admitted.

"We have probably struggled a bit for a platform and haven't really created too much with the ball, which is disappointing and it's something we'd like to turn around.

"So, if we can get the platform, we'll certainly look to play, but it'll probably be relatively simple because we will have changes again."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport