Schmidt only has eyes for Leinster

Joe Schmidt: Leinster coach will be in Auckland to watch Ireland take on the All Blacks but only because he’ll be there on a family holiday.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt pledged he will be back at the helm in Dublin next season, despite ongoing rumours linking him with troubled Super 15 side the Blues (Auckland).

Schmidt will attend Ireland’s opening Test match against New Zealand at Eden Park — home of the Blues — on Jun 9 next, but insisted yesterday it would be coincidental because he will be there on a family holiday.

His reassuring words in advance of the RaboDirect Pro12 final against the Ospreys at the RDS tomorrow will be greeted with relief in Dublin 4 and beyond the Pale.

Even if Leinster, as predicted, complete an unprecedented Heineken Cup and RaboDirect double this weekend, he has no intention of jumping ship, and said it was regrettable the matter had been aired in New Zealand and Ireland in the build up to this game.

He explained how a New Zealand journalist had managed to get hold of some quotes these last couple of days: “Someone got my phone number. I guess I’ve got too many family and friends back there so I have spoken to them a little bit. It’s just because the number doesn’t show up and having a lot of people from New Zealand, I don’t have all their numbers on my phone.

“I didn’t realise it was going to be media when I picked up the phone. It’s not something I’d like to be distracted by or the players to be distracted by.

“I’m excited about next year, at least I will be after a four-week break, but I’m now focused on the next couple of days. When I get home, I’ll be going to see Ireland [at Eden Park]; I will be sitting quietly somewhere near the back of Eden Park for the first Test with two of my kids [one daughter is sitting for the Leaving Certificate examinations] and I certainly won’t be doing anything media-wise.

“I am absolutely committed to being back in Dublin for pre-season and I am really looking forward to it. I think there will be a whole set of new challenges and a whole set of new expectations, maybe more than ever, and that in itself is exciting.”

For now, this week provides more than enough anticipation, but Schmidt is keen to keep the lid on it, conscious that the opportunity for a double victory was blown against Munster last season.

But if Leinster cruised to their third Heineken Cup victory last week, Schmidt believes the hard slog they had to endure for 70 minutes of that game against Ulster will help keep them firmly focused.

He figures Leinster’s second-half demolition of Northampton Saints in the decider last season might ultimately have damaged them in the bid for the double, explaining: “I think we were so excited last year to have come from a position where we were dead and buried, this year while it was really tough for the first 70 minutes, we always kind of had our noses in front so there probably wasn’t the same euphoria.

“There was more relief than euphoria and that probably tempered the celebrations, so we’re probably in a bit better condition hopefully than last year.”

LEINSTER: R Kearney, F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa, J Sexton, E Reddan, H van der Merwe, S Cronin, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, K McLaughlin, J Heaslip, S Jennings.

Replacements: R Strauss, C Healy/J McGrath, N White, B Thorn, D Ryan, J Cooney, I Madigan, D Kearney.

OSPREYS: R Fussell, H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, S Williams, D Biggar, R Webb, P James, R Hibbard, A Jones, A W Jones (captain), I Evans, R Jones, J Bearman, J Tipuric .

Replacements: S Baldwin, R Bevington, A Jarvis, J King, T Smith, K Fotuali’i, M Morgan, T Isaacs.


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