# decision
'We are what we repeatedly do' - Joe Schmidt has transformed Irish rugby
The Ireland head coach is set to confirm the big decision on his future tomorrow.

SAY IT AIN’T so, Joe.

All the indications are that Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will tomorrow confirm a decision to leave his job after next year’s World Cup, a scenario that most supporters are dreading.

The 53-year-old has been an incredible success since arriving on Irish soil in 2010.

First, he guided Leinster to remarkable glory, with two Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup and three Pro12 titles secured in his three years with the province.

Joe Schmidt ahead of the game Morgan Treacy / INPHO Schmidt has a 74% win ratio as Ireland head coach, the best ever. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Schmidt took on the Ireland job in 2013 and has led them to a Grand Slam, two other Six Nations titles, their first two wins over the All Blacks, a maiden victory against the Springboks on South African soil, as well as a series success in Australia.

The pain of the 2015 World Cup quarter-final exit to Argentina lingers for Schmidt but all signs are that Ireland are in good shape for their attempt to finally overcome that last-eight hurdle next year in Japan.

Schmidt’s importance to Irish rugby extends far beyond that stunning CV, however, with his influence felt at all levels of the game.

Visits to the provinces, his detailed feedback to players who aren’t even in his Ireland squads, inspirational talks at clubs and schools, the consistently positive impression he makes on rugby people and even those who aren’t fans of the sport.

While Schmidt possesses the kind of ruthless streak that any successful coach in sports must have, he has played a major role in the increased interest in rugby in recent times.

‘In Joe we trust’ goes one slogan among Ireland fans and it feels like the last few weeks have been an exercise in managing the outpouring of dejection that would greet confirmation of Schmidt departing next year.

Speaking after yesterday’s win over the US, Schmidt again insisted that his final, final decision will be made today, Sunday, when he sits down with his family after a typically busy November in which they haven’t seen much of him.

The Ireland head coach did admit that he had already given the IRFU an indication of which way he was leaning and it is clear that the union is preparing for his departure, particularly with CEO Philip Browne having recently lauded the coaching talent like Andy Farrell, Simon Easterby and Stuart Lancaster in the Irish system at present.

Joe Schmidt during the post match press conference Tommy Dickson / INPHO Schmidt is set to confirm his decision tomorrow. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Many will be holding out hope that Schmidt has a u-turn in his decision-making ahead of tomorrow’s announcement, but no one will hold it against the New Zealander if he does confirm a decision to leave these shores next year.

There is much more water to pass under the bridge before the expiration of Schmidt’s current contract, of course.

The 2019 Six Nations is already looming, with England’s form picking up in recent weeks and Wales completing a clean sweep of their November Tests. Reviewing Scotland, France and Italy’s games in depth will also be on Schmidt’s agenda in the coming days and weeks.

The World Cup warm-up fixtures are the only other thing between the Six Nations and the kick-off of Japan 2019, where Ireland will be favourites to top a pool also containing the hosts, Scotland, Russia and Samoa.

Waiting at the quarter-final stage is likely to be either South Africa or New Zealand, ensuring a thrilling knock-out tie first up. Schmidt will be desperate to make history and help Ireland into a first-ever semi-final in a World Cup. Who knows what might happen from there.

But first, Schmidt’s big announcement tomorrow.

His players insist they haven’t been informed of their head coach’s intention and have expressed their hope that he will remain in situ beyond 2019. That now looks like hope in vain.

To say that Schmidt has completely transformed Irish rugby is not hyperbole. He has changed the way in which all of us view the game in this country, not just the players.

Joe Schmidt arrives at the stadium Billy Stickland / INPHO Schmidt led Ireland to a Grand Slam this year. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

His insatiable desire for detail and demand for improvement has rubbed off on everyone in the game in Ireland – supporters, the media, the provinces, the club game, youths coaches, his own squad, even rivals.

His impact has been a cultural one as much as a technical or tactical one.

‘We are what we repeatedly do,’ goes the saying attributed to Aristotle that Schmidt so loves, and he has instilled that in virtually every rugby player he’s worked with or who is trying to break into his Ireland squad. 

Winning is what Schmidt repeatedly does.

The majority of Irish rugby is hoping he surprises us all and stays beyond next year but if not, the hope must be that Schmidt’s methods and teachings remain in place for a long time after he departs. 

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