Schmidt believes in sporting miracles
Heineken Cup Pool Five:Understandably, Leinster believe in miracles. Just hark back to May 21st, 2011 and that astonishing 40 minutes of rugby witnessed in Cardiff.
Behind 22-6 at half-time, with a rampant Northampton scrum seemingly steamrolling their way to the podium in the Heineken Cup final, Jonathan Sexton responded with two tries and 28 points for a 33-22 turnaround. It was a mind-blowing achievement with Sexton’s brilliance complemented by Seán O’Brien’s tractoring carries down the tramline as everyone else waded in behind for what can now be viewed as a sporting miracle.
Nearly two years on, the defending champions must produce similar levels of excellence over consecutive weekends against the Llanelli Scarlets at the RDS tomorrow and in Exeter seven days later to remain in the competition.
Talk of miracles seems less ridiculous considering O’Brien, Rob Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald and probably Isa Nacewa are fit again.
“I might be naïve but, yeah, I do believe in miracles,” said Schmidt yesterday. “That’s one of the reasons people love sport because they want to see the miracle. They don’t come up too often so you treasure them when they happen. We’ve had a couple in the past couple of years that will certainly be indelibly etched on my memory and I’d love to get another very good memory in the next two weeks.”
With the accepted need for bonus points from both games, the Kiwi coach was asked if they are considering changes to their established approach come 6pm tomorrow. As Schmidt started to answer, he was interrupted. “No,” said Kearney, making his coach smile and immediately reminding everyone of the enormous advantage gained by the fullback’s rapid return from back surgery.
“We haven’t spoken about bonus points at all this week. It would be disrespectful to the opposition. We won’t change anything. First and foremost we’ll just try and win the game doing the things we always do, just do them better.”
Kearney was banging the player drum yesterday; focus on the processes and let permutations look after themselves. However, should Leinster have two tries banked around the hour mark Schmidt will increase his influence on proceedings with some tactical nuances. “That’s always part of coaching. If we have any sort of buffer on the scoreboard we might try and chase the game a bit more. But we’ll focus on getting the buffer first,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt proved yesterday, yet again, to have a superior grasp of statistics than his inquisitors by diluting the theory that Leinster’s try-scoring abilities have been blunted this season. “We’re only just behind Ulster in the PRO12 for tries scored so we actually have a really good record. Just not in the Heineken Cup. Exeter are difficult to score against, Scarlets away we got a buffer on the scoreboard and probably started playing a little conservatively than we normally would have. At the same time, they are a tough enough team to break down.