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Schmidt predicts tough semi-final

Joe Schmidt

Leinster boss Joe Schmidt has predicted an "horrendously tough" Heineken Cup semi-final for his team after they cruised into the competition's penultimate knockout round by brushing aside quarter-final opponents Cardiff Blues 34-3 in Dublin.

The reigning European champions extended their unbeaten Heineken Cup record to 13 games as full-back Rob Kearney scored two tries, while centre Brian O'Driscoll and wing Isa Nacewa also touched down, with fly-half Jonathan Sexton kicking 14 points to underpin a comprehensive success.

Leinster will now head to Twickenham or Bordeaux on April 29, depending on the winners of Sunday's Vicarage Road tie between Saracens and Clermont Auvergne and, whatever the outcome, Schmidt is predicting a difficult trip. He said: "The semi-final will be horrendously tough."

He added: "To win away from home in a semi-final doesn't happen very often. It is an extremely tough feat to achieve.

"There was a lot of pressure and expectation on us, and I was really happy with our execution in the first half. We relaxed a little bit after that, but we defended our line well. We dug in."

Gavin Henson's sacking by the Blues and his fellow Wales international centre Jamie Roberts undergoing knee surgery overshadowed their trip. And Leinster showed no mercy, with a fit-again O'Driscoll making an impressive contribution on his first Heineken Cup start since last season's victory over Northampton in the Millennium Stadium final.

"We are in the last four, which is where we wanted to be," O'Driscoll said. "But good sides always pick holes in any victory, It was not an over-elated dressing room - we conceded too much territory and possession to be pleased - but we are in the semi-finals."

For their part, the Blues admitted they had finished a distant second best against opponents now through to their fourth successive Heineken semi-final.

"Leinster are a very good side with some exceptional players. They were constantly on the front foot in the first half and they found the gaps," Blues forwards coach Justin Burnell said. "We can feel sorry for ourselves or we can get back to work on Monday. We've got three league games left, and we have got to salvage some pride."

And Blues skipper Xavier Rush added: "We couldn't get any rhythm into our game in the first half. They put us under a lot of pressure and we couldn't put much back on to them. You want to do better when you get to a quarter-final, but we were beaten by a better team. There is no way around it."