Schmidt admits to big match nerves
April 23, 2012
Leinster boss Joe Schmidt will send his side into battle against his former team on Sunday © Getty Images
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt admits the nerves are building ahead of his side's Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with his former side Clermont Auvergne on Sunday.
Schmidt, who helped steer Les Jaunards to their first ever Top 14 title during a three-year-stint as assistant coach, has also revealed that his fellow Kiwi and former boss Vern Cotter is also sensing the enormity the most eagerly-anticipated clash of the season.
The two former colleagues spoke on the phone last week in the build up to an encounter that is set to attract a capacity crowd to the Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux. "I think he is as nervous as I am about it," Schmidt told the Irish Independent. "I think we can go there and play pretty well and still not get the result, and I think he feels the same way. That is the way it should be with a European semi-final. I think it is going to very, very tough and so does he.
Schmidt's side are the defending champions and are looking to extend their unbeaten run in the competition to 14 games. They are also sitting on top of the RaboDirect PRO12 and assured of a home semi-final in the play-offs but they are not the only side in-form on the domestic stage. Clermont are hot on the heels of Top 14 leaders Toulouse and extended their winning run at home to 42 games with victory over Montpellier at the weekend.
"They have avoided the barrage. They are clearly going to play direct into the semi-finals in France, so they are already in a comfortable spot, a little like we are," added Schmidt. "I think, with the depth of their side, Vern is pretty comfortable with the options that he has at his disposal. It will be really interesting when the team comes out. I don't think either of us believes 15 players on either side will win it. It is certainly about the 23 players that are selected."
Clermont lock Nathan Hines is bidding to become one of the elite to lift European club rugby's most coveted silverware with different clubs having played shared in Leinster's triumph last season. The Aussie-born former Scotland international admits the collision between his old and his new club was almost inevitable.
"If we wanted to go far in Europe we knew one time or another we would have to cross paths," he said. "Joe and Vern spent a lot of time together and they will try to out-fox each other so it just comes down to the day. Leinster are pretty much the same team as last season and I think the teams are quite similar with effective forwards and good back rows. On paper you're looking at a 50-50 game."
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