Leinster need to ignore the big picture
That day the English club proved to be a real nuisance at the breakdown, slowing down ball and counter-rucking aggressively.
Schmidt admitted: “You have got to work very hard against this team to get them because they look after the ball really well. Teams that play with that much width can sometimes get exposed, but they are very well organised and they anticipate play well.
“They have played a lot together and come up through the Championship and Premiership. A lot of the players have stayed consistent over a period of time and they really gel incredibly well as a unit.”
The Chiefs are without the injured Phil Dollman and the excellent Argentine Gonzalo Camacho wing while scrumhalf Haydn Thomas, who missed last week’s defeat to Clermont, is still an absentee.
Into the side come giant Fijian Sireli Naqelevuki and former Ulster player Ian Whitten. They possess an excellent backrow in James Scaysbrook, Richard Baxter and Tom Johson, a very able leader in Tom Hayes and, in fullback Luke Arscott, a premium grade attacking threat.
Leinster welcome back Brian O’Driscoll, Eoin Reddan, Richardt Strauss and Kevin McLaughlin to the starting team. Although snow has blanketed large swathes of Britain – two flights to Bristol were cancelled – Exeter, while bitterly cold, has been assailed only by rain. The visitors will be hoping for a dry day, albeit that the pitch will be heavy.
The Chiefs know that the best way to neuter Leinster is disrupt their set-piece, win the collisions and dominate the breakdown. Conversely, the Irish province will be looking for quick ball and precision in their patterns.
The Leinster pack must win their duel to claim victory; the backs may decide by how much. Patience might be a virtue, discipline too because it’s been an Achilles’ heel.
Leinster must learn to manage referee Romain Poite.
The visitors need clarity of purpose and execution and if they can satisfy those two requirements then they have a chance.
EXETER CHIEFS: L Arscott; I Whitten, S Naqelevuki, J Shoemark, M Jess; G Steenson, K Barrett; B Moon, N Clark, H Tui; T Hayes (capt), D Mumm; T Johnson, J Scaysbrook, R Baxter. Replacements: J Yeandle, C Rimmer, C Mitchell, J Hanks, B White, W Chudley, I Mieres, N Sestaret.
LEINSTER: R Kearney; I Nacewa, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (capt), D Toner; K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, J Heaslip. Replacements: S Cronin, H van der Merwe, M Bent, R Ruddock, S Jennings, I Boss, I Madigan, F McFadden.
Referee: Romain Poite (France).
Verdict: Leinster to win.