INPHO/Billy Stickland
Heineken Cup

Schmidt: Precision key against 'liberated' Clermont

Their long unbeaten home record secure, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt expects to come up against an even better Clermont side in Dublin tomorrow.

LEINSTER WILL NEED to be at their precise best to keep their Heineken Cup defense alive against a “liberated” Clermont Auvergne, coach Joe Schmidt said.

The French heavyweights edged a pulsating “battle of the unbeatables” last Sunday, extending their home record to 51 straight games without loss as they inflicted Leinster’s first European defeat since May 2010.

The champions must win in the Aviva Stadium tomorrow if they are to close the gap at the top of Pool 5 and hang on to their hopes of a place in the quarter-finals.

But away from the Stade Marcel Michelin and free of the weight of their lengthy unbeaten streak, Schmidt expects to come up against an even better Clermont side in Dublin.

“I honestly think Clermont will be better this week,” he said at yesterday’s pre-match briefing.

Talking to a couple of them, I think they are getting a little bit suffocated by the record they have amassed there.

I think they will feel a little bit liberated to play on a quicker field against a loud, blue audience — not jaune et bleu.

Schmidt added: “I do think their motivation is very high. They would like to see the back of us out of the competition and that’s motivation for them. I guess it’s motivation for us to stay in the tournament.

“I don’t think it’s personal at all, I just think it’s really competitive. It’s a healthy competition. It’s just a competition I would have like to seen later in the tournament if we survive and they survive the knockout stages.

“To have them in your pool does reflect the imbalance that does exist in Heineken Cup pools. There is a bit of luck required some times to avoid some of the teams who have performed in the tournament in recent years as opposed to others who maybe haven’t performed.”

Both Schmidt and back-row Sean O’Brien conceded that a lack of accuracy cost Leinster their chance of another famous win on French soil last weekend.

“We didn’t get a lot of luck and we didn’t quite get the precision that we needed,” Schmidt said.

Those two things combined to stack up a loss that we could have done without and obviously that we can’t afford this week. We’ve concentrated a fair bit on the precision and hopefully there will be evidence of that.

O’Brien added: “It could have swung in our favour at certain times but it wasn’t the case and as Joe said earlier, we’ve to sharpen up this week and get back to doing what we do well, get our accuracy right, and really go after them this week.

“If we get our performance right, we’ll be there or thereabout and that’s what we’re going out to do this week.”

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