Rejigs and highlight reels for depleted Leinster backline

Joe Schmidt, though, reserved much of his praise for Kevin McLaughlin and Isaac Boss.

Fergus McFadden makes a lightning break against Zebre.
Fergus McFadden makes a lightning break against Zebre.
Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THE FOCUS MAY have drifted to France midweek but now,officially, Leinster can talk openly about their Heineken Cup trip to play Clermont Auvergne.

With Zebre sent back to Parma with the cold comfort of a solitary try, scored by Tito Tebaldi, Joe Schmidt paid a considered tribute before revealing Nathan Hines’ November holiday itinerary.

He said, “Zebre have a few good backs – Daniel Halangahu has played a good bit of Super Rugby… Matteo Pratichetti and Gonzalo Garcia have played a few games for Italy so they’re strong through the midfield.

“For us, we didn’t underestimate Zebre and new we had to be present tonight before looking ahead to next week.”

In truth, the only Italian backs to cause concern for the home side were Garcia and right winger Leonardo Sarto.

Leinster’s backline, shorn of the services of Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Eoin O’Malley, were sensational at times in the 37-7 victory.

Jonny Sexton, brimming with confidence after his two-try performance against Argentina, and Gordon D’Arcy excelled but Fergus McFadden stole the show.

Playing on the left wing, McFadden’s 23rd minute break led eventually to Andrew Conway’s try. He scored five-pointers of his own on 59 and78 minutes and would have scored a third [or first] in the first-half but for a loose Sexton pass.

“Fergus, by his own admission,” said Schmidt, “had a bit of a mixed bag. He was very, very good in attack. He probably missed young Sarto a couple of times. I thought he looked pretty good.”

The Leinster coach, valuing the importance of squad contributions, reserved his highest praise for flanker Kevin McLaughlin, who ‘never stopped’, and Isaac Boss.

Life’s a beach

Despite the performance of a rejigged backline, Leinster will desperately miss the likes of O’Driscoll and Kearney next weekend.

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While Leinster were cruising to a home win, Clermont lost 30-22 away to Toulouse but Schmidt noted their starting 15.

“A number of their guys were on their bench,” he said. “I think Brock James, Davit Zirakashvili, Damien Chouly – those guys didn’t come on to the field at all. They started with what would be very much a mixed team for them.

Of their starting 15, not too many started at all. None of their front row - Zirakashvili, Benjamin Kayser and Thomas Domingo all left out. Jamie Cudmore started at six, not in the second-row.

“Nathan Hines started but he needed a bit of game time. I think he was sunning himself in Portugal for the last six weeks.”

Schmidt added, “For them, I’ve no doubt that they’ve been doing some homework already and they’ll be building momentum towards next Sunday.”

As it happened: Leinster v Zebre, RaboDirect Pro12

Schmidt dismisses injury worries over O’Brien and Sexton after Zebre win

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Patrick McCarry

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