herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Joe looking in the mirror

Friends Schmidt and Cotter will pit their wits against each other

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

You have to wonder whether this is the week in which Joe Schmidt looks in the mirror each morning and sees his mentor Vern Cotter staring back at him.

Their pasts are intertwined, their present intersected and their future unknown.

Ireland's coach is one crucial win away from turning a moderate season into a moderately successful one.

It will have to come at the expense of the man who summoned him to the northern hemisphere in 2007, to Clermont-Auvergne, and a three-year partnership that yielded the French championship in 2010.

There, they would part ways and re-engage as coaches of Leinster and Clermont-Auvegne on the grand European stage.

The move of Schmidt to international rugby in 2013 was followed by that of Cotter in 2014 to Scotland.

There is no doubt Cotter played a central role in Schmidt's development as an assistant at Clermont and the latter will understand in detail how his compatriot will look to undermine the foundation of Ireland's game.

"You could say that about Vern as well," said Ireland Skills and Kicking coach Richie Murphy. .

"He's had the same insights into how Joe sees things.

Shaped

"I would say going back through the years, Vern shaped Joe in some ways. But, he's (Schmidt) obviously moved on a lot since then."

Schmidt sees some of the trusted Cotter values at work in Scotland's set-up where the set-piece and physicality are trademark requirements.

"We definitely get an insight into some of the stuff they're going to do and how he wants to play the game.

There is definitely an advantage or us there," imparted Murphy.

"But, I would say if you were sitting in Scotland and asking the same question, they would probably give you the same answer."

At the same time, Schmidt and Cotter are not stubborn enough to ignore the evidence in front of their educated eyes.

There is the way they want to play and the way they have to play which leads to a divergence between Ireland and their Celtic cousins.

"No, there's quite a difference in how they play and how they approach it," stated Murphy.

"I think most coaches at this level might fit a game plan to the players they have playing for them where their philosophy of how they want to play the game doesn't always come through.

"Like, 'this is how I want to play the game. But, these are the players I have to work with.'

"You kind of adjust and try and find a place where you as a coach and the players are happy."

That happy medium only exists as long as the results roll in, like they did for Scotland at home to France on Sunday.

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