Tuesday 12 December 2017

could joe and Cotter lead All Blacks?

Schmidt and Scotland boss the perfect fit

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and Scotland coach Vern Cotter could hold long-term plans to return home as the perfect coaching double-act for New Zealand in 2017.

This is the opinion of former Samoa number eight Paul Tupai, now 40, who was a central figure in Bay of Plenty's Ranfurly Shield victory over Auckland in 2004.

This was the achievement that put Cotter and Schmidt on the rugby map back home.

Cotter moved on to become Canterbury Crusaders forwards coach for three years and Schmidt uprooted for the Auckland Blues where he was backs coach until 2007.

From there, Schmidt was convinced by Cotter to decamp for Clermont-Auvergne where the Kiwi kids eventually contrived to capture the elusive French Top-14 title in 2010.

It was at this point that the two were separated again by Schmidt's decision to move into a head coach role for the first time at Leinster where he carved out unprecedented success for the province.

Tupai envisages the great friends coming together again under their national flag once their respective commitments to Ireland and Scotland are finished.

Schmidt is contracted to the IRFU until the summer of 2016, while Cotter's term at Scotland ends there too.


It would be inconceivable to see anything other than a lucrative contract extension offered to Schmidt by the IRFU.

"I think coaching the All Blacks together is probably their ultimate goal," said Tupai, still playing away for Bedford Blues in The English Championship.

"I don't really know how it works in New Zealand for that. I assume you have to get in line and wait your chance.

"But there's no doubt they would want to be in that handful of coaches that will be getting the job at some point down the line.

"I think they have to be in that category to be honest, with everything they've achieved already, and no doubt with more to come."

It is a very Irish trait to lavish praise when Schmidt was accumulating the ten straight victories and lunge into doubt on the evidence of a single defeat.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they already have a plan to be fair, to try to get back there together. And they've definitely got to be up there.

"They've gained a huge amount of respect in rugby circles right across the world for what they've achieved and that carries a lot of clout I think."

Meanwhile, prop Mike Ross says it would be "a huge lift" for Ireland to retain the Six Nations for the second time since their only time back in 1949.

"It's hugely important. It would be a great achievement for this squad if we could do that, the back-to-back championships," said Ross.

"But at the same time we can't get ahead of ourselves, the main focus is to beat Scotland first and foremost and any number of points after that would be a bonus."

The tight-head has regained his status as Ireland's number on, number three, despite the impact of Marty Moore off the bench and the presence of Tadhg Furlong out at Carton House.

The temptation for Ireland to throw caution to the wind will be resisted in favour of building a lead.

"We are not going to go out and play Sevens, that's for sure," he said, with typical good humour.

"I can't do that anyway. But, we don't want to throw it around from the start.

"If you do that and make a mistake, before you know it one of their fast ball carriers will be scooting up the pitch.

"We are not going to just play wide for the sake of it."

The staggered nature of Saturday means Wales will be first-up to set a mark against Italy in Rome.

Ireland will follow on away to the Scots in Murrayfield and England will hold the position Ireland did last season when they will know exactly what they have to do against the French at Twickenham.

"I suppose we'll have an idea of where Wales are after the Italy game, so we'll know what we need to do there," he offered.

"France look like they are coming good - thankfully - so they will be a tough team to beat in Twickenham.

"But that's no good at all if we get beaten by Scotland," warned Ross.

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