It’s a cheery Joe as Leinster coach faces into week of big issues
There is six days before Ospreys, a Lions selection and the Irish coaching job
After this try by Brian O’Driscoll in Saturday’s Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final, the entire stadium broke into a chant of “one more year”. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
A spring day with firm ground and apart from a few missed chances early on that in different circumstances may have come back to haunt Leinster, Schmidt’s reaction was in his luminescence more than his words.
The scoreboard pushing towards the magical 50 points and a European final made for a cheery Joe as he faces into a week fat with issues; the Ospreys on Friday, a Lions selection on Tuesday and the decision about who will replace Declan Kidney imminent. Woosha!
On the Irish job, Schmidt is convinced that will be known in the short window between the Lions and the Ospreys
“I do believe that something will be sorted by Wednesday next week at the latest,” he said. “I think for the clarity and for Leinster as well, if there is something that does happen I still have to get that clearance from Leinster. They have been incredibly encouraging.
“Until it’s in front of you . . . until its concrete there something quite nebulous about it you can’t quite grasp. Therefore you don’t make too many plans especially when you have Biarritz and a six-day turnaround to Ospreys.”
On his key players there was more general encouragement, not only after O’Driscoll’s score, when almost the entire stadium broke into a chant of “one more year”. That drew a self-aware smile from the Ireland centre but Schmidt also welcomed the additional pressure on his player to postpone retirement for another season.
“Yeah I still think he’s very good. I’d be delighted if the crowd would keep that pressure on,” said Schmidt. “And if he signs for another year, that won’t just be good for the team he plays for but it will be good for the players around him, the youth who he spends a lot of time with. He’s been really good for our guys.
“I know Eoin O’Malley hasn’t played a lot this year but he has benefited a lot from having Brian around. I think Brendan Macken has learned a lot from Brian as well. Guys who play inside him and outside him, I think that’s a benefit at any stage. The player he is, the person he is, he’s a great guy to have in the environment as well so yeah he was pretty good and he continues to be that.”
Jamie Heaslip may also have alerted the Lions selectors to his ability. If timing a run was his idea of how to prick the ears of Warren Gatland, then the number eight may have done enough. Criticised for being less visible in matches than he ought to be, the Ireland captain paraded his credentials on the last day available to him.
“Yeah,” added Schmidt. “I thought he was immense today. He was really deserving of the player of the match. I think all week there’s been an edge to him.
“When we didn’t have Seán (O’Brien), the plays are set up for him to carry a little bit more and . . . a lot of people have talked about that fact he’s not carried and not breaking line.
“I think he does a massive amount of unseen work. He does a lot on the poach, on the ball and I thought he and Richardt Strauss put a lot of pressure on the Biarritz ball and they did it very correctly, on their feet. I thought today he carried really, really strongly.”
Sexton and O’Driscoll, also in the crosshairs of Gatland, didn’t harm their reputations, Try-scoring Sexton coming off as a precaution and Ian Madigan seamlessly shifting into the outhalf position. Gatland should have felt reassured.
“I hope they were reassured because if those three were already on their sheet they can feel comfortable that they had the right people because it was a big game and the big-game people stood up.
‘Busting the line’
“Even Rob Kearney busting the line for a second try. I think he’s looking like he’s got a sharpness back. He’s been a long time out in the early part of the season. He’s just coming right.
“There are a few other guys also putting their hands up or at least causing a few headaches,” added Schmidt.
“I’ve enough of mine so I love to see other coaches have them.”