JONATHAN SEXTON will not be involved for Leinster against Edinburgh tomorrow – despite his lack of game-time ahead of the Novemberinternationals.
One player who will feature is new signing Clint Newland, who arrived from New Zealand this week. And despite the lengthy travel involved, the 30-year-old prop looks set to be thrown right into the action.
The Hawke’s Bay front-row has been drafted in as cover for long-term injury victim Stan Wright and joins on a three-month deal. He was competing in New Zealand’s ITM Cup until last weekend’s final round of matches.
Newland’s arrival bolsters Joe Schmidt’s options in a week he has described as “challenging” due to the number of players he has had to do without. The coach announces his team this afternoon, but one name that definitely won’t be on it is Sexton’s – the out-half isn’t among the players released from Declan Kidney’s Ireland training camp.
While he is “relatively close” to knowing his starting XV, Schmidt reiterated his belief that players who return from international duty late in the week are likely to be on the bench.
“We just need to see what condition the players are in that we get back,” he said. “We have to work together. There is a limit to the resources and we have to make the best use of those resources.
“It’s a little more challenging than I thought it was going to be. One of the things that is difficult is you’re just getting a bit of momentum, you feel like you’re making progress and now we’ve probably got 11 changes from our previous starting line-up.
“It’s going to be a pretty difficult task but at the same time it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge for the new guys coming in and there is opportunity that they’ll hopefully take.
“Mike Ross will be coming back to us so we have him and we have Clint. He might benefit from getting a bit of an outing and with Mike having trained the whole week with Ireland, that might mean we give Clint a bit of a go.”
A quick google of Newland reveals reports of the giant prop laying out All Black Neemia Tialata with an almighty punch in a regional game in 2007. But Schmidt is assured the New Zealand Maori international will be on his best behaviour at Leinster.
“He’s a big man,” Schmidt said. “He’s 6ft 3ins, 130 kilos, so we think he’s pretty capable of locking down a scrum. “He’s come out of Hawke’s Bay but he’s played a lot of Super 14 with Otaga Highlanders. I think he’d probably argue that Neemia Tialata deserved that (punch)! But he’s come on his best, best behaviour so don’t expect to see any obvious right crosses.”
Schmidt also welcomed the news that scrummaging consultant Greg Feek is to be added to the Ireland setup. “Our guys are really positive about what Greg has brought, about the tools that they feel they’ve been given to try and improve them individually and as a scrummaging unit,” he said.
“So I think that word has been passed on. (Ireland forwards coach) Gert Smal came to a couple of sessions that Feeky was taking and maybe it just grew from there. He’s done a good job for us and I’d expect he’d do a similar job for Ireland if he’s in that role over a period of time.”
Meanwhile, Connacht coach Eric Elwood is hopeful that his men can put a dent in Treviso’s impressive home record in their maiden season in the Magners League, and has beefed up his front row with the acquisitions of former All Black junior Rodney Ah You and South African Dylan Rogers – with both props able to play either side of the scrum.
“They offer us options to mix our team up a bit. The inclusion of the Italian teams in this year’s Magners League means an extra 25pc of games and with the Amlin Challenge Cup as well it is important to be able to give guys a rest and rotate the squad,” said Elwood.
His side head to Italy today for tomorrow evening’s clash with a Benetton Treviso side who have won three of their four home games so far.
“They are making a big push and a big emphasis on the home games in the Magners and I think they rested seven players last week so they’ll be waiting for us,” he said. “It’ll be a big test for us – they are very strong and good at home. They have a big squad, with a lot of internationals and the Italian teams have come well prepared into the Magners League.”