LEINSTER will look to get their season into gear against the Cardiff Blues at the RDS this evening after a spluttering start.
Michael Cheika’s departure was always going to make for an uncertain start to the 2010/11 campaign as the new man sets about making his mark on an experienced squad.
Joe Schmidt hasn’t been happy with, or helped by, the impositions on his squad from the IRFU, who are trying to safeguard their frontline internationals ahead of the World Cup in a year’s time.
It means the New Zealander has had to work from a shallow base and the province heavily lost two warm-up games against London Wasps and Leicester Tigers before opening their Magners League campaign with defeat by Glasgow last Friday.
Defeat by the Blues would put unnecessary pressure on the new regime, but it is certainly not out of the question as the men from the Welsh capital travel with a fine opening win over Edinburgh under their belts.
Coach Dai Young hasn’t been shy about talking his side up, and although he has rowed back on his earlier assertions that the Welsh regions now no longer fear the Irish provinces, the former Wales international is still confident ahead of the clash.
“I think any team at the start of the season would say that a win at Leinster should be seen as a real bonus,” Young said.
“Leinster, we know, is a very difficult place to go and win, I think we’ve only won there once. We’ve pushed them close a few times, but haven’t managed to get over the line, so it’s about time we went there and won.
“If we could do that then it might raise a few eyebrows.
“We will concentrate on making our set-piece, in particular, much better this season because that has always been the question mark against us in terms of competing with the big boys.”
With physicality in mind, Young has selected New Zealander Michael Paterson at blindside flanker alongside Wales starlet Sam Warburton and All Black Xavier Rush.
Leinster’s side is strengthened by the return of Jonny Sexton, Brian O’Driscoll and Shane Jennings, who skippers the side, and winger Shane Horgan believes patience is required as the new coach beds in.
“Perfection’s not going to happen,” he said.
“It will take a certain amount of game time and that’s not making excuses. We’ve under-performed so far, that’s been because of player under-performance and players not making the right decisions on the pitch.
“I think that we’re still at very early days of him (Schmidt) putting forward his entire game plan and I think he’s releasing that to us in a piece-meal fashion to us because it takes time.
“You want to get what you’re doing right and that’s something that evolves over the course of the season and that won’t happen until we start getting results.”