Joe Schmidt has warned that teams may have to sacrifice PRO12 ambitions to enhance their chances of European success if the competition does not re-examine its play-off schedule.
Leinster faced Glasgow Warriors two evenings ago in the RDS and picked up a handful of worrying injuries just seven days before facing an inactive Ulster side in Saturday’s first all-Irish Heineken Cup final.
Last year, the province was afforded a Friday night Magners League play-off against Ulster and thus an eight-day turnaround before the Heineken Cup decider against Northampton as they battled to get Brian O’Driscoll and Richardt Strauss fit for the fray.
“The PRO12 is what we play, first and foremost,” said Schmidt. “It is really important to us and we wanted to make sure we had our full side out but we have another PRO12 team to play who are a very good side and have been able to rest their entire squad and don’t have the bumps and bruises that we have got.
“An eight-day turnaround does make a difference. It just gives you enough time to get a bit more recovery. You need a couple of good trainings and with an eight-day turnaround you can have three days of recovery and get a couple of trainings in the back half of the week. At best seven days will compromise our first training of the week and at worst it will mean we will only really get one training in the week and maybe a few guys who are touch and go might not make the game next weekend.”
Schmidt sounds PRO12fixture warning
That is disappointing for them and us because I am sure (the PRO12) want people to be competitive on two fronts. I know that, having come from the French system, they often pick and choose and say ‘we’ll flag this and go for that’ and I’m pretty sure that’s not what they want to happen. It’d have been great if we had an extra day.”
Leinster will at least avail of an eight-day buffer between the Heineken decider and their PRO12 final against Ospreys at the RDS as the game has been pushed back 24 hours as a result of the Republic of Ireland-Bosnia match at nearby Lansdowne Road on May 26.
That will be of little comfort to a coach who is fretting over the fitness of a number of players ahead of next weekend’s game in Twickenham.
Eoin O’Malley looks almost certain to miss out after picking up a knee injury against Glasgow although the outlook on Gordon D’Arcy (eye) and Cian Healy (ankle) is far more upbeat. Ditto for Rob Kearney, who sat out the game with a back problem.
O’Driscoll’s well-being is less assured. Schmidt said on Saturday evening that the Irish captain was only 50/50 but struck a far more positive later and all indications are that the centre will feature in London.
“We are just going to give him a rest and hopefully he will be up fully and running by Thursday. He is one of the most resilient men I have met and one of the most competitive people I know. He will want to be there.”
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