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Sunday 4 December 2016

England making an irresistible play for Irish coach Schmidt

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt

Ex-Ireland wing Shane Horgan says he “could see” Joe Schmidt being prised away from Ireland by the persuasive arguments to be made by England, during an interview with Second Captains podcast.

It is beginning to look like the story that won’t go away.

Last week, the French newspaper Midi Olympique tried to start a fire in the Irish camp by claiming the English were on the verge of making an irresistable play for Ireland’s greatest single asset. 

It was seen as a piece of mischief-making, designed to further unsettle the Irish by the mean-mouthed and truculent French, shortly after Schmidt had organised the fall of Les Bleus to Ireland.

Now, Horgan has added fuel to the dying embers by putting forward a clear case why it would make sense for the Rugby Football Union in Twickenham to orchestrate a move for Schmidt.

Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt

The story emanating out of France did prompt questions about Schmidt’s interest in the post.   

“Joe said that he wasn’t interested in chasing Lancaster’s job. I know he isn’t,” said Horgan to the Second Captains team.

“But, Lancaster mightn’t be in a job pretty soon.

'There's no show like a Joe show,' according to these Ireland fans who met Joe Schmidt after the game
'There's no show like a Joe show,' according to these Ireland fans who met Joe Schmidt after the game

“I would almost guarantee he won’t be in a job pretty soon.

"All of a sudden, there is a vacant position to coach an English team that has the most financial muscle of any international team in the world. It is probably the most sought-after job in rugby, second only to the All Blacks.”

Already, the New Zealander has been held up as, possibly, the best coach in the world, certainly the best in Europe on the evidence of his stellar career as an assistant at Clermont-Auvergne and head coach at Leinster and Ireland where he has mastered Europe and the Six Nations.

This has been achieved working with the limited playing resources in Irish rugby where he wasn’t able to buy in the players he would have wanted at Leinster or draw from a wider pool of international class players.

England is a tantalising prospect for any coach worth his weight in gold.

For example, they have overtaken, or at least broken even, with New Zealand as the dominant forces in Age Grade rugby.

They have won two of the last three U20 World Cups and made four of the last five finals.

They have very few, if any, irreplaceable players and any number of options to play the game any which way.

This would be ideal for Schmidt in that he could create a template best suited to dealing with the southern hemisphere nations.

Moreover, the English don’t fear anyone. They have beaten New Zealand seven times, Australia on 18 occasions and South Africa in 12 tests. 

The profile and success of Schmidt, in tandem with the gross under-achievement of England, would give him a really strong position from which to deal.   

“I think they would be smart to go after Joe,” added Horgan, “I’d be incredibly disappointed if he left. But, if I was Joe Schmidt I think you would have to give it serious consideration because that’s a good English side. There are the bones of a very good side.”

There is also the element of financial reward even though it was claimed, rightly or wrongly, from unidentified sources this summer that Schmidt is currently on a very substantial package from the IRFU.

In fairness, Schmidt was known to be upset at the release of these unsubstantiated figures and let it be known they were off the mark.   

“They have a huge amount of financial muscle. There will be a hugely profitable remuneration for Joe,” stated Horgan.

It appears unlikely that could currently be tempted by any attempt to lure him across the Irish Sea despite reports that English officials are poised to offer the IRFU €2m to buy out Schmidt’s contract.

There is a strong argument that Schmidt will take time out to consider the question: ‘how much improvement is there in Ireland? What players are coming through the system?’ 

“You know, he’s probably thinking ‘what more am I going to do with Ireland?’” asked the former Ireland international.  

CONTRACT

“Now, I know he has got a contract for a couple of more years. But, like most of these things, there are normally exit clauses.

“If I was the President of the RFU, the top brass there, I would be going for Joe Schmidt. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this story. I would be surprised if there isn’t a few more turns in the tale.”

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