Ruddock credits 'incredible' Schmidt before Ireland boss' big announcement

The 53-year-old is set to confirm his decision early next week.

RHYS RUDDOCK HAS credited Joe Schmidt with an “incredible impact” on Irish rugby as the Ireland head coach gets set to confirm a decision on his future early next week.

An announcement on whether or not Schmidt will stay with Ireland after the 2019 World Cup is expected on Monday.

The Ireland boss has said that he will make his final decision on Sunday, but it’s highly likely that the IRFU are already aware of what Schmidt plans to do after next year’s World Cup.

Joe Schmidt with Rhys Ruddock Rhys Ruddock and Joe Schmidt in Chicago earlier this month. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The growing sense is that Schmidt will depart next year, although Ireland’s players insist they don’t know what their head coach’s plan is yet.

However, Ruddock underlined just how important Schmidt has been since arriving on Irish soil in 2010 to take over at Leinster.

“I think probably from an outsider’s point of view, what you see is pretty black and white, his impact is there for everyone to see,” said Ruddock, who captains Ireland against the US tomorrow.

“There are some intangibles he adds within the group, but I don’t know if I can give those away!

“It’s obvious he’s an incredible coach and he’s had an incredible impact on the environment as well. In Leinster, I was able to experience that first-hand and now with Ireland as well.

“But the impact he has on the group and the belief over the long-term that has grown and grown, we’re very lucky we’ve got him and the other coaches in the set-up doing such a great job.”

Having worked under Schmidt at Leinster and with Ireland, Ruddock is as well placed as anyone to appreciate just how good the 53-year-old is at his job.

Although the likes of Andy Farrell, Simon Easterby and Stuart Lancaster would be among a number of strong possible candidates to succeed Schmidt if he does leave, the hope among most rugby people in Ireland is that Schmidt will stay.

Joe Schmidt Ireland had their captain's run in Dublin this morning. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ruddock is among them, having benefited from Schmidt’s coaching over the past eight years.

“There have been loads at different times, to be honest with you,” said Ruddock. “When I was younger some of it… I wasn’t able to see what he was trying to teach.

“There’s been loads of things in terms of on-field detail. His rugby knowledge is second-to-none, some of it goes over my head!

“He gave me the opportunity to captain Leinster when I was just 21, and he’s helped me grow as a leader from there. He’s really helped me learn as a player and a leader.”

Ruddock captains Ireland against the visiting Eagles at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow, with a full house expected as Schmidt’s men attempt to seal a clean sweep of their November Tests.

With 14 changes to the side that beat the All Blacks last weekend, there are many players with points to prove.

“It’s tough,” said Ruddock of missing the clash with New Zealand and the Argentina game the weekend before. “But the only carrot is that you get to captain the side at home.

“And playing in front of the Aviva at home in front of a full crowd, with the place rocking, that’s incredible.

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Ireland team huddle Ireland can complete a November clean sweep tomorrow. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“So the fact that there’s this game and the chance to finish on a high makes that a bit easier.

“Selection is tough in general, but that’s part of rugby. Everyone goes through it, but it makes everyone hungrier and that’s why we’ve got such healthy competition.”

Judging from the outside, this clash with the US would appear to potentially be a final World Cup audition for some of the players involved.

With only the Six Nations and pre-World Cup warm-up fixtures remaining before Japan 2019 kicks off, the windows of opportunity are narrow, but Ruddock says Ireland’s players cannot afford to think like that.

“We live in such a bubble, it really is week-to-week,” said the Leinster flanker.  “All we’ve been thinking about is the USA and the threats they have.

“We’re very much focused on the Test match we have to play. I’m sure there are things that it will lead to in terms of pecking order and selection. It’s a great opportunity for everyone.

“But we only have a week to prepare, so the most important thing is that we get all the detail, our plays right, and then the mindset to go out and put our best foot forward.”

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Murray Kinsella

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