Leinster facing uphill battle
Leinster's defeat to Clermont Auvergne has forced their coach Joe Schmidt to plot an alternative route to the knock-out stages of the European Cup.
Leinster's "incredibly disappointing" defeat to Clermont Auvergne has forced their coach Joe Schmidt to plot an alternative route to the knock-out stages of the European Cup.
Having extended their amazing unbeaten sequence at Stade Marcel Michelin to 51 games with their 15-12 triumph over the side that beat them in last season's semifinals, Clermont will travel to Dublin's Aviva Stadium holding a vital five point advantage over their arch-rivals.
Not only that, with Leinster having scored only one try in three games to date in their title defence, the Frenchmen hold a significant advantage on that front as well with a dozen to their name. A bonus point win for Leinster would wipe out their five point deficit, but Schmidt is not banking on his side doing that six days after a bruising defeat.
"We have just got to get our points. We had five players missing in Clermont who are important to us and if we can get them back for rounds five and six maybe we can salvage something and scramble in as a best qualifier," admitted Schmidt.
"It is difficult enough to beat this team, let alone start chasing points that are very difficult to get. I don't think I could have asked much more of the players - they definitely gave it their all and there are definitely a number of bumps and bruises as a result.
"There will be a clearing station at midday on Monday and we will try to glue a few guys back together and make a go of it next weekend. It is incredibly disappointing because I think we were close enough to steal it.
"We dominated territory in the second half and created some good opportunities. We weren't precise enough and we lost a couple of key balls on our line-out throw that didn't allow us to keep the pressure on them," he explained.
More than 42,000 tickets for the return match on Saturday have already been sold and there is every likelihood that with a week to go the gate could surpass the 44,873 that witnessed Leinster's 24-8 victory over Clermont at the same stage two years ago, a record attendance for a European Cup Pool match in Ireland.
Leinster have a home game against the Scarlets in Round Five and then travel to Exeter to meet the Chiefs in their final outing, while Clermont finish in January with the Chiefs at Stade Marcel Michelin and an away trip to Parc y Scarlets.