Joe Schmidt is taking nothing for granted ahead of Leinster's Heineken Cup defence

Last Updated: 11/10/12 10:41pm

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Joe Schmidt: Taking nothing for granted as Leinster prepare to defend their crown

Joe Schmidt: Taking nothing for granted as Leinster prepare to defend their crown

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Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt is adopting a cautious approach ahead of the defence of their Heineken Cup title.

The Irish team have dominated the tournament in recent years, winning three of the last four - including a 42-14 success over Ulster earlier this year.

Schmidt's team have been placed in a tricky-looking group after landing fixtures against French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne, seasoned European campaigners the Scarlets and impressive tournament newcomers Exeter.

Although Leinster are the bookmakers' favourites to be crowned champions on home soil in Dublin next May, Schmidt is not looking beyond the group stage.

"Right now, our sole initial target is to get out of the group," he said. "It is such a competitive pool that I think only one team will qualify for the quarter-finals, so I am not thinking about anything beyond our first match against Exeter.

"We have not played Exeter before but we are fully expecting them to be both extremely combative and expansive. They are a really positive outfit and in Ignacio Mieres they have a fine fly-half who can vary the team's game as necessary.

"Centre Jason Shoemark is another in top form and Wallaby Dean Mumm - a very athletic lock and genuine international-class player - has now arrived at the club and is sure to be a big player for them.

Great job

"Their coach Rob Baxter has done a great job in first getting them promoted and then taking them storming through the English league and into the Heineken Cup for the first time."

The Scarlets will provide more familiar Heineken opposition for Leinster, and the Welsh side have already provided them with some painful memories this season following a 45-20 loss in their Pro12 opener.

"While we do not know that much about Exeter, we do know the Scarlets pretty well," he continued. "In our last meeting on the opening day of this season they put 45 points on us.

"They have quality across the board with a back-line packed with internationals like George North, Jonathan Davies and Rhys Priestland, and a back-row trio of Josh Turnbull, Aaron Shingler and Rob McCusker at the top of their individual and collective game."

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