Tuesday 21 January 2020

Joe: Not a job but way of life

Schmidt reflects on his time at Irish helm

Head coach Joe Schmidt is greeted by supporters on the Ireland Rugby Team's return at Dublin Airport from the Rugby World Cup. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Head coach Joe Schmidt is greeted by supporters on the Ireland Rugby Team's return at Dublin Airport from the Rugby World Cup. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The man nobody knew from Adam became the other Joe Show in town that everyone wanted to see.

When Jonathan Sexton returned from meeting the little-known Clermont-Auvergne backs coach in 2010, he worried that the short, slender man he had encountered was too mild-mannered, just too nice, to be Leinster head coach.

The demanding Ireland out-half couldn't have been more wrong.

Joe Schmidt has shown the game knowledge, work ethic, ruthlessness and judgement to take Leinster and Ireland to unprecedented heights.

It has been quite the journey from man of mystery - because no one really knew who he was - to perennial winner all the way through his Leinster tenure in the PRO12 League in 2013, the Heineken Cup, twice in 2011 and 2012, and the European Challenge Cup in 2013.

Then, the New Zealander couldn't have scripted the first two seasons in charge of Ireland much better with back-to-back Six Nations championships in 2014 and 2015.

There were any number of one-off milestones from there to the 2018 Grand Slam, culminating in the personal accolade of the World Coach of the Year last November.

Schmidt was at the peak of his powers, and his power, as Ireland looked unstoppable in dethroning New Zealand.

When asked for the pick of his gold medal moments out in Dublin Airport last night, two stood head and shoulders above the others.

"Obviously, talking about that Grand Slam is special," he said. "That first half in Twickenham, that was as good as we got, probably.

"Together with Chicago in 2016, we played a team that had gone six out of six in the Rugby Championship, amassed 35 tries, just conceded five across those games against the best the Southern Hemisphere had.

"We got five all by our lonesome in a super game which was an expression of what we were capable of doing."

The building blocks were put in place to humble the All Blacks again.

Then came England to Dublin at the start of this year's Six Nations. And Schmidt and Ireland have never been the same since.

Perhaps, it was more than a coincidence that the Kiwi has used the word "broken" to bookend those defeats to England in February and New Zealand last Saturday.

The last calendar year, heck the last match, of Schmidt's reign will tear at him for as long as he is away from the game.

That may not be too long.

"I'm sure my wife (Kellie) is thinking what else is he going to do as well!?

"I know I'm not going to do it (coach) in the near future.

"I've been blown away by some of the approaches and incredibly humbled by them.

"I made a commitment that I'm going to absolutely stick to, through to at least June or July of next year. As a family, we'll sort of step back and decide what people want to do and how we'll go about things.

"It hasn't been a job, it has been a way of life," he stated.

"It has been seven days a week. I think I can honestly say, in six and a half years I've not taken one full day off.

"There's not one day where I don't think I've either been scribbling notes or watching footage, or getting to a game or doing some coaching. I've loved it."

It is difficult to accept that Ireland's Mr Rugby will stay away from the game too long.

He needs it as much as it needs him and there have already been numerous attractive offers from prospective employers out there.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News