Blue army turns out in Leinster's hour of need
Realistically, that is about the most elbow room Schmidt had. What they may possibly lose in sheer physicality without McLaughlin, they make up for in defensive and breakdown savvy with Jennings.
Clearly Leinster will set out with the ambition they reserve for these occasions. Such an approach reaped a huge dividend on the corresponding weekend two seasons ago a week after retreating from Clermont with a bonus point defeat. Even then though, despite having three tries by the 50th minute they couldn’t clinch a bonus. But Leinster were closer to optimum strength that week, have only scored one try in three Cup games to date this time and are lacking a little X factor in their back line.
You never know what might happen if they broke through early or, say, had two tries by the 50th minute. But the bonus point win they need to usurp Clermont at the top of the pool looks a tall ask against a fast-up defence that has yielded only one try.
By rights Clermont should win this. They have a bigger budget, bigger squad, lower injury list, were able to rest up a week before these collisions every bit as much as Leinster did and after so many disappointments at the hands of Irish teams (Leinster particularly) should have all the motivation in the world.
But aside from being roared on by a near capacity Aviva crowd, Joe Schmidt’s team might also be a little mentally stronger. So it was that they were able to take on Clermont in their Marcel Michelin fortress and clearly believed they could beat them there while rattling the home side’s cage.
Such is the level of insider knowledge between the two coaching tickets and groups of players that it will be hard for either of them to come up with something new.
But you suspect Leinster somehow might. And, not only do Clermont have more scars from six defeats out of six on Irish soil, Leinster are also seven wins from seven at their home from home.
LEINSTER: S Cronin, C Healy, M Bent, D Toner, K McLaughlin, I Boss, A Conway, D Kearney.
CLERMONT: T Paulo, V Debaty, D Kotze, L Jacquet, A Lapandry, L Radosavljevic, D Skrela, R King. Referee: W Barnes (Eng). Verdict: Leinster to win