Schmidt pleased with his side's response to adversity
The Leinster coach was in philosophical mood after the bonus point win
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt was philosophical after watching his side manage the four-try bonus point victory over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park. It wasn’t quite enough to preserve a place in the Heineken Cup knock-out stages for the champions who will instead be redirected to the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals. There they will travel to Adams Park in April to take on London Wasps.
Schmidt admitted: “I am feeling pragmatic about where we are and what has taken place. We have had a fantastic run in the Heineken Cup in the last four years. I would have to say that I am really proud of the way that we fought back to get in a position where with one game to go we were still in the mix after losing those back to back matches.
“We will have to forge ahead. We haven’t won the (RaboDirect) Pro12 in a few years. We have lost three finals in a row and it might give us a clear area to have a crack at that. That is something that we have targeted the last two years and having played a Heineken Cup final the week before makes it tough to get back up for.
Dust themselves off
“The Amlin final, if we can make it there, is in the RDS. There are still things to play for and I know that this team will dust themselves off and attempt to do the very best they can, regardless of what competition they are in.
“It has been a hell of a challenge. We have used more guys than we certainly had for the last two years in the Heineken Cup. We have blooded a number of younger guys for the Heineken Cup and that has to be positive for the future because players will transition in and out.
“The challenge I would give to the team is that it is the player that puts on the jersey and if it is not an international, recognised player, you have still to live up to that standard. It is one of the things with the depth that some squads in Europe would have in that they wouldn’t be as adversely affected but at the same time it has been a fantastic challenge to try and negotiate a way through. We have been imperfect – but an ‘A’ for effort.
“What I will say is that the quality of our performances has improved. We were always a little bit scratchy to start because we had guys coming back in and then we had a lot of injuries on top of that.
“To get ten points and nine tries from these last two games is a real credit to the team.”
Schmidt paid tribute to the Exeter Chiefs performance on the night, citing how well they did at ruck time and how hard they worked for each other to try and negate Leinster’s desire for quick ball.
Former Lions and Wales international Dai Young, who coaches Wasps wasn’t exactly rubbing his hands at the prospect of facing the Irish province. He ventured: “Well you could look at it and say it’s not much reward for topping our pool to then be given a draw against the Heineken Cup champions, but on the flip side what a hugely exciting prospect it will be playing them at home.”
“I have no doubt all of our players and fans will be massively looking forward to it and it’s a game which if we can win it, would really put us on the map. They are obviously a hugely experienced and talented side but in knock-out rugby anything can happen and I know that our guys will be hugely up for this one at home in front of hopefully a big crowd. This will be a fantastic test for us.”