Belfast Telegraph

Leinster chief calls on his men to raise bar at Ravenhill

Despite an excellent 24-8 victory over French champions Clermont in Lansdowne Road last weekend, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt is looking for improvements when his side play Ulster, weather permitting, in the Magners League next Monday at Ravenhill.

With players being rested under the IRFU's Player Welfare Programme, both selections are likely to differ considerably from the teams that triumphed in Dublin and Bath but Schmidt, although delighted with the outcome last weekend, still wants an increase in overall efficiency.

“If I'm brutally honest, we know that we let ourselves down a bit in the last half hour at the weekend,” said Schmidt.

“We weren't as accurate as we'd been in the first 50 or so minutes and our intensity dropped, allowing them back into the game while we missed out on a bonus point. In saying that it was a massive positive to get the four points.”

Eoin O'Malley, who missed last weekend's match after injuring his rib in the Stade Marcel Michelin clash the week before, remains a doubt for the Ulster match and the branch say his progress will be monitored over the next few days.

The weather has complicated Leinster's preparations once again with Tuesday's training session at UCD cancelled due to heavy snowfalls and the province are seeking a venue for training today or tomorrow.

However, Schmidt is grateful for the extra time between matches after two high octane clashes with Clermont within six days of each other.

“The extra couple of days rest are much needed after the rigours of a six day turnaround and two really physical games against Clermont, so the players feel somewhat refreshed and are looking forward to the Ulster game,” added Schmidt.

“There will be changes because a number of international players are missing, so that will present an opportunity for others and we'll have to be right on the money against Ulster because they are a very good side who are brimming with confidence.”

Those changes could see Shaun Berne come back into the equation in the backline.

Schmidt has been impressed by Ulster in their back-to-back victories over Bath.

“I was interested to read Brian McLaughlin's comments after their win over Bath last weekend when he said that he didn't think that they played that well,” said Schmidt.

“That's a warning to us and if they play better again, they will definitely be a real handful. They have quality all over the park. “Tom Court has done really well and obviously has the confidence of the national coaching panel, and even though Rory Best may be missing, they have two good young hookers.

“BJ Botha is a quality performer, as is Johann Muller and I'm well aware of his qualities and those of Ruan Pienaar from their time with the Sharks when I was coaching in Auckland.”

Belfast Telegraph


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