Ulster now the only realistic contenders for last eight
Schmidt was unhappy with another of Wayne Barnes’ utterly befuddling performances, notably in his varying interpretation of the breakdown, refusal to apply the offside line, and allowing repeated indiscretions by Clermont close to their line and illegalities at scrum time. “Unfortunately you’ve just got to take the rub of the green there,” Schmidt said, adding he had “nothing but respect” for how Clermont played.
Neither Ulster nor Leinster, especially, will exactly be relishing next Friday’s Rabo Pro 12 set-to in Ravenhill. After two scarring battles with Clermont, when asked for his thoughts on facing Ulster away Schmidt admitted candidly: “Depressed”.
“We’ve lost another couple of guys. There’s some very, very tired boys in there at the moment. That’s a massive challenge for us to pick ourselves up from where we are, both mentally and physically, particularly having to go up to Ravenhill against one of the form teams in Europe at the moment.”
“Ulster would have to be contenders,” ventured Schmidt, and as leaders of their pool as well as the league, that’s at least true of them, if not so much the rest of their Irish brethren.
Major blows: Bowe and Strauss badly injured
What was already a sobering weekend for Irish rugby became a slightly harrowing one yesterday with the news that Tommy Bowe sustained “significant lateral ligament damage to his right knee” in the latter stages of Ulster’s 10-9 defeat at home to Northampton at Ravenhill on Saturday.
He will undergo surgery later this week and according to an Ulster statement “at this stage it is not possible to put a timescale on how long his recovery period will be. A further update on this will be issued following the surgery, when the full extent of the injury will be known.”
But he could be sidelined for up to 12 weeks.
In addition to Bowe, Ulster have concerns about Dan Tuohy (calf) and Paddy Jackson “dead leg”.
With Leinster already a little “skeletal” as Joe Schmidt put it, a cloud also hangs over the rest of the season for Richardt Strauss. The extent of his anterior cruciate ligament injury will be known today but Schmidt conceded: “that doesn’t look too good.”
In addition Isa Nacewa (arm) and Shane Jennings (shoulder) shipped knocks.