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Dan Sheridan/INPHO Schmidt's Ireland contract runs until after the 2016 Six Nations.
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Could Joe Schmidt coach New Zealand one day? A legendary All Black thinks he has the potential
Mils Muliaina says Joe Schmidt has ‘turned some heads’ in his home country.

THERE HAS PROBABLY never been as much optimism and expectation surrounding the Irish rugby team as there is at the moment and that is down to one man – and he isn’t even out on the pitch.

Despite Ireland being weakened by a series of injuries the prevailing opinion seems to be: don’t worry, we have Joe.

Joe Schmidt has shown a remarkable ability to get his teams to adapt – both with Ireland and Leinster – to any situation regardless of personnel.

At provincial level it was throwing in Eoin O’Malley and Fergus McFadden as Leinster got a priceless losing bonus point in Clermont during his first season and as national boss it was in the autumn when his side defied pre-series predictions and won all three of their games.

But as the number of wins increase, so does Schmidt’s reputation within the game. If Ireland continue to impress in this year’s Six Nations and later in the World Cup will they be able to hold onto their prized asset?

There have been rumours of Schmidt being lined up as Steve Hansen’s eventual replacement as All Blacks coach and given Hansen’s success it really is just rumour at the moment.

But could Schmidt one day be the New Zealand coach? We asked former All Black and now Connacht fullback Mils Muliaina about the possibility and he told The42 that Schmidt’s reputation is growing back in his home country.

“He has the potential to be that [the All Blacks coach],” Muliaina said.

“He seems pretty settled here but it is every boy’s dream to play for the All Blacks so it is probably no different for a coach. He did really well with his Bay of Plenty team and then with the Blues. There are only five Super Rugby positions in New Zealand so it can be tough for a coach to break through but after what he has done with Ireland and Leinster he is definitely turning a few heads in New Zealand.”

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Schmidt’s current deal runs until the end of the 2016 Six Nations and many were surprised when the IRFU performance director David Nucifora said in October that the union hadn’t yet opened talks with the Ireland coach on a new deal.

Perhaps they are still wary of the four year contract given to Eddie O’Sullivan before the ill-fated 2007 World Cup but if Ireland repeat last year’s Six Nations win the IRFU will be under pressure to sign up Schmidt long-term.

Muliaina thinks Schmidt is building well, not only in terms of regaining the Six Nations but also ahead of the World Cup.

“Ireland are the favourites [for the Six Nations] I think,” Muliaina said.

“England were impressive against Wales with all their injuries so I think it will come down to one of them but after what Ireland did in the autumn they are probably slight favourites. I definitely think Ireland have a chance [to win the World Cup]. The All Blacks are the favourites but it is knockout rugby and on the day any team can be beaten.”

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