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'Faz is coming as the former student but I think Joe is still King Kong'

Joe Schmidt will coach against his former assistant, Andy Farrell, this weekend in Auckland.

Schmidt has joined the All Blacks' coaching team.
Schmidt has joined the All Blacks' coaching team.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE DUST IS settling after a storm of news from New Zealand overnight and the picture is now looking rather different as Ireland prepare to face the Māori All Blacks on Wednesday and New Zealand in the first Test on Saturday.

Three All Blacks coaches and two of their players have tested positive for Covid, with Ireland’s Mack Hansen in the same boat.

Iain Henderson and Rob Herring are injury doubts for the first Test, with Munster Niall Scannell on his way out to New Zealand as cover at hooker.

And, most eye-catching of all, former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt is now coaching the All Blacks.

On today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra podcast for members of The42, Bernard Jackman, Gavan Casey, and Murray Kinsella discussed this big development.

Schmidt was due to become an independent selector for the All Blacks after the Ireland series but with head coach Ian Foster, forwards coach John Plumtree, and defence coach Scott McLeod all now isolating, Schmidt has stepped up to coach the Kiwis. 

Bernard believes Schmidt’s sudden elevation is fascinating because it could apply pressure on All Blacks boss Foster, but also because it pits him against Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, who Schmidt brought on board as his assistant in 2016.

“It’s a real sharing environment in New Zealand rugby and in general, there are no secrets,” said Bernard.

joe-schmidt-with-steve-hansen-and-ian-foster Schmidt [left] with Foster [right] when he was still Ireland boss. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“So there’s no chance that Joe Schmidt wasn’t already sitting down with Foster and his coaching staff over the last two or three months talking about how the All Blacks should play against Ireland, particularly given we beat them in November.

“They weren’t going into this with their eyes closed. They know it’s a big Test series and a really important one for Foster. I didn’t know if Joe was going to be coaching but I thought his fingerprints were going to be all over their game plan for these three weeks. Now it’s going to be even easier because he effectively has the whistle.

“It’s probably horrible for Foster because if New Zealand come out of the blocks and blow Ireland away, Joe Schmidt is going to get all the credit. Jamie Joseph and Scott Robertson have been seen as strong contenders to get the All Blacks job, whereas Joe probably doesn’t have the same love in the public because how he played with Ireland was seen to be quite anti-play. 

“The Kiwis are all about results though and if they feel Joe is the right man to get the results, it would be a lot easier for him to take over or play a big role in the World Cup, even if he was down as an assistant coach.

“And then there’s Joe versus Andy Farrell. Of course, Farrell has changed how Ireland play but if you’re Joe Schmidt – and I’m not saying he thinks like this, but most coaches do – Joe could say there has been no silverware.

“He could say, ‘Yeah, Faz has them playing more attractive rugby but show me the trophies.’ In fairness to Joe, whether it was in Leinster or Ireland, he was pretty good at gathering trophies. 

“Faz is coming as the former student but I think Joe is still King Kong.

ireland-head-coach-joe-schmidt-with-andy-farrell Farrell was brought into the Ireland set-up by Schmidt. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

“All coaches are highly competitive. Post-Japan at the World Cup, there was a lot of talk about how the Ireland camp was a bit toxic, leadership development was a bit stunted, players being selected based on past performances rather than current.

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“They were things that Joe had been very strong on early enough in his career. There’s no doubt that when you leave an environment and you’re reading the press where players are talking about how much better it is, that does get to you.

“It’s only natural because the new broom sweeps clean and Farrell could see what wasn’t working. He instantly got the players on board and put a big focus on leadership and culture.

“For Joe, he doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone but being involved with the All Blacks is the pinnacle for any Kiwi.

“He wasn’t a superstar player by any means leaving New Zealand, went to Clermont, proved himself in Leinster as an unknown head coach, proved himself with Ireland, did that administration role with World Rugby, and now he’s getting the chance to coach the All Blacks for the week. It’s incredible.” 

Also on today’s podcast, the lads discussed the latest Covid and injury news as the All Blacks and Ireland’s options were shuffled.

There was also lots of chat about the Ireland U20s’ defeat to France in the Summer Series in Italy, as well as Montpellier’s impressive Top 14 final success.

To get access to The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, which comes out every Monday with Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, as well as every Wednesday with Eoin Toolan, become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie.

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