Leinster manager Joe Schmidt returns to his former club as the European champions return to Heineken Cup action against Clermont Auvergne, and the New Zealander admits he’s worried about the Blues from going into the clash.
These two clubs played out a classic semi final last year on neutral French ground with Leinster edging the Heineken Cup classic 19-15.
Whilst Clermont are at full strength with only prop Thomas Domingo a doubt after falling prey to a knee injury during training, Leinster have serious concerns. Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald remain sidelined depriving Schmidt of “all his weapons” ahead of this vital game for Leinster.
Schmidt is likely to utilise the untested Andrew Goodman in midfield alongside Gordon D’Arcy as he looks to unlock a formidable Clermont midfield likely to consist of club stalwart Aurelien Rougerie and France international Wesley Fofana.
It is a huge challenge for a Leinster side, they face a Clermont side on a 50 game unbeaten run at home and have scored 12 tries in two games while the current champions have only maged one try in a disappointing campaign this season.
“We know that we will be playing for our future in European competition over the next two matches,” said the Kiwi coach in the Independent.
“They have scored 12 tries in two games while we have registered one. We have reason to be worried! Apart from the win against Munster, we haven’t been able to play for 80 minutes and produce a performance of the highest level.”
“If we do not play at our best, we will not win. I expect that my team will produce its best game of the year,” added Schmidt.
“We are missing three top players. We need to find solutions to compensate for these absences. We cannot leave Clermont without the four points.”
“If we end up six points behind heading into the following week, they will be too far ahead. We must have the ambition to win both games. If we lose to Clermont, we can still be alive and hope to take a second-place berth but we will lose control. To avoid this, the simplest calculation is to win.”