The dust may have only just settled on this years Heineken Cup but Joe Schmidt today expressed relief that Leinster’s pool for next years competition was not as tough as the one that they faced last year.
The reigning champions will have to negoiciate Bath, Glasgow and the up and coming team in French rugby Montpellier if they are to get out of their pool and have any hope of defending their title that they won in dramactic fashion against Northampton in Cardiff two weeks ago.
Speaking today a relaxed Schmidt outlined that although the pool is less challlenging than 12 months ago Leinster will still have to be on top of their game to top their pool “Obviously I hope it is not harder to defend the title than it is to win it .We struggled to win it in the first place now it will be different because you are sitting there to be knocked off,” said Schmidt.
“Clubs already target Toulouse. They are the real bench mark along with teams like Leicester Tigers and Munster because they have been at the top in Europe for such a long time and we know they will want to beat the champions.
“As for next season and who we will be up against in Pool 3 we know it is going to be tough.
“Bath are former Heineken Cup winners, they have a real pedigree in the tournament and showed a bit of resurgence last season, just missing out on a top four finish in the Premiership.
“And you can never take Glasgow lightly . You just talk to Wasps about the threat they can be because they are regularly a bogey side for teams at the top end of the tiers.
“As for Montpellier, I see them as a genuine coming team in Europe and I have a lot of respect for their coach Fabien Galthie, though I guess it largely depends on how they approach the Heineken Cup and if they are looking to take the next step up”
Looking back on that never to be forgotten final against Northampton Schmidt said it took time for their achievement to sink in but is keen for Leinster to build on their second Heineken Cup in three years.
“After the final we looked at what we had done right and what we had done wrong but I guess it wasn’t until I got back to New Zealand and watched the match again with a quiet beer that it really sank in as to what we had achieved,” said Schmidt.
“Then I realised just what a hell of a game of footie it had been, the way things had unfolded and the presentation . It was a fantastic evening and one we won’t forget.
“I had to pinch myself and perhaps the problem now is how you top that because I would hate us to slip off what we have achieved”.