SHANE JENNINGS SAYS Joe Schmidt was the true mastermind behind Leinster’s Amlin Challenge Cup victory over Stade Francais but the flanker is determined to blank out all thoughts of the New Zealander’s departure.
Speaking to TheScore.ie after his team’s 34-13 win, Jennings, who came on in the second-half of the victory, Jennings explained that Schmidt’s training ground moves paid winning dividends against the French visitors.
“I think the man of the match was Joe Schmidt in the first-half,” he said. “He gave us three plays that he said would work and they worked, courtesy of Jonny [Sexton] with his kicking and the accuracy of the lads and guys running their lines. We were told if we did we’d score and that’s exactly what happened.”
The victory meant Schmidt has led Leinster to three European trophies in his three seasons with the province. Jennings, however, was honest in his appraisal of the secondary European competition. He commented:
Even now, I don’t want to give any disrespect to the competition but it’s not the one we wanted to win and there’s no point in sugar-coating that… Leinster want to win the Heineken Cup, not the Amlin Cup but at least we won it.”
Leinster players celebrate their Amlin Cup win. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
Next up for Leinster is the large matter of a Pro12 Final at the RDS on Saturday. Given the Blues’ recent run of defeats in league finals, the Dubliner admits there is an itch that needs to be scratched.
Jennings said, “Some people say we might have had a bit more edge if we had lost [against Stade]. I don’t think so. I think we’re very focused.
Ulster are a very good side. They’ve done a job on us twice already this season. They’re going to be favourites and that hasn’t happened to us too many times over the last few years. I’m not saying that in an arrogant sort of way; that’s the way it has been. They are playing very well and it is going to be a huge match.”
As Jamie Heaslip pointed out following Leinster’s win on Friday, eight Leinster players, including Sexton and Isa Nacewa, will follow Schmidt out the exit door this summer. Their departures, says Jennings, can be marked after the final whistle next Saturday.
He added, “That’s the one thing with professional rugby, you can’t afford to get too sentimental because, if you start wishing Joe well, and Jonny well and Isa well, your head gets a bit messed a you kind of take your eyes off the prize. You have to be very clinical. We’ll all be happy if we can win a cup. That’s the best way to say goodbye to him.”