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# old mates
'He'll give me a cheeky smile before kick-off and then want me to do my worst'
Joe Schmidt and Nathan Hines shared some good times at Leinster but are rivals tomorrow.

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

THERE WERE MANY reasons Joe Schmidt liked Nathan Hines so much back in their glory days at Leinster.

The former lock – now part of Scotland’s coaching staff – was a brilliant lineout operator, a ruck machine, a stunningly good cheat, had the hands of a back, offloaded like a Frenchman and also possessed top-level tactical acumen.

Nathan Hines and Isa Nacewa Billy Stickland / INPHO Nathan Hines and Isa Nacewa with the 2011 Heineken Cup. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Schmidt wanted to keep him at Leinster in the summer of 2011 after Hines had helped the province to two Pro12 finals and their second Heineken Cup trophy, but the ex-Scotland second row was moved on by the IRFU.

Hines joined the Scottish coaching team in 2015 and is now essentially a direct rival to Schmidt, but the 40-year-old says his old boss has been happy to discuss coaching whenever the pair have had the chance.

“I spoke to him when I was across [in Ireland] at the end of last year,” said Hines at Murrayfield this afternoon, ahead of Ireland’s clash with the Scots tomorrow.

“The door is never closed with Joe, as far as I can see – unless it is and he hasn’t told me yet! But he’s an open guy and we had some good times at Leinster.

I’m sure he’ll give me a cheeky smile before kick-off tomorrow and then want me to do my worst during the game.”

Hines – who will move to Montpellier next season along with current Scotland boss Vern Cotter – saw up close just how excellent a coach Schmidt was, with the Kiwi building his world-class reputation in those Leinster years.

The last two seasons have seen Hines plotting against Schmidt and now he understands even more how good Schmidt is at identifying opposition flaws.

“I think he brings an unbelievable tactical awareness,” said Hines. “He brings confidence to the group and he builds confidence within a rugby team, just by his belief in the players and what he presents to the players.

Joe Schmidt and Nathan Hines Ryan Byrne / INPHO Schmidt and Hines thrilled to be on media duty back in 2011. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“Basically, he goes through every other team with a fine tooth comb and finds weaknesses, which obviously gives your team confidence.

“The tactical element of the game against Ireland is immense. They find weaknesses, exploit those weaknesses and then make it very hard for you to play. It’s just how we combat that and try to make it as difficult as we can to execute it.”

As all former players who have turned to coaching then to do, Hines has picked little bits of Schmidt’s coaching make-up and brought it into his new career since 2015.

“It’s just organisation, the way he is with players. When I was at Leinster – well he might have morphed into Super Joe now or something – but the way he is with players and the way he talks to them.

He doesn’t shout very often and he gets his point across without having to be too in your face. In a typical Kiwi way, he gets you to reflect on your performance so he doesn’t have to [shout].”

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Schmidt possesses a detailed array of set-piece moves that he mixes and matches, bringing up old classics from years before when the moment requires that specific strike play.

When Ireland scored a clever try through Sean O’Brien with a trick play at the tail of the lineout in their Six Nations-clinching victory at Murrayfield in 2015, Hines was taken back to his two years with Leinster.

“I recognised one of the moves they did against Scotland two years ago when they scored down here off the back of the lineout,” said Hines. “As soon as I saw it, I text Leo [Cullen] and said what it was, with a cheeky smile. He sort of laughed at me.

“So, that was funny and quite sad at the same time.”

Leinster's Jonathan Sexton arguers with Clermont's Nathan Hines Billy Stickland / INPHO Johnny Sexton gets in Hines' face in Leinster's clash with Clermont in 2012. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

While Hines and Schmidt will shake hands and exchange words before tomorrow’s contest, then perhaps share a beer after the battle on the pitch, this weekend is all about the business of starting the Six Nations with a win.

Scotland are feeling confident of their chances of a crucial home success, although Hines doesn’t go along with the perception that Ireland are more vulnerable without his old team-mate Johnny Sexton.

“Not more vulnerable, probably less angry! But the thing with Joe is that he’ll have systems in place so everyone knows their roles. Paddy [Jackson] will just slot right in, he’ll be executing exactly what needs to be done.

“Johnny is a little bit more vocal than Paddy, but it’s still not going to be an easy job for us.”

- This article was updated at 5.40pm to correct Pro12 ‘titles’ to Pro12 ‘trophies’ in the third paragraph.

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