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Schmidt 'proud' of Leinster effort

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt was full of praise for his side after they gained a valuable losing bonus point against Clermont Auvergne - and said they were "absolutely gutted" not to have come away with more.

The visitors played some daring rugby at times and were rewarded with an early Shane Horgan try. Tries from Julien Malzieu and Anthony Floch saw the reigning French champions hit back to win an entertaining game 20-13, but Leinster still top Pool 2 after escaping with from Stade Marcel Michelin with some consolation.

Schmidt said: "I'm proud of them. Sometimes you don't get what you set out to try to achieve and it is frustrating but you can keep your head up when you try to your maximum. They deserved it."

However, Schmidt rejected suggestions that it was a good defeat.

"There's no such thing (as a good defeat). We're absolutely gutted," he said. "We feel we didn't quite get the rub of the green - a few things didn't quite go our way.

"We do, at the same time, take our hats off to Clermont. You know once they get momentum - and they got two very good tries - that they will be hard to stop."

Leinster were without Ireland internationals Brian O'Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney, but Eoin O'Malley and Fergus McFadden impressed in the visitors' back-line.

Schmidt added: "I'm learning the whole time and I have confidence in these players. I think they sense that. If anything, if there is something in a good defeat, it's the one point and the belief that they will get from this."

The stage is now set for a mouthwatering return match at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday when both sides know a defeat could all but end their chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

But Leinster have injury concerns after number eight Jamie Heaslip was forced off and with flanker Sean O'Brien also struggling. Ireland captain O'Driscoll, who is nursing a jaw injury, will see a specialist on Tuesday and Leinster plan to give him every chance to prove his fitness.

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