JOE SCHMIDT HAS come across as very relaxed in his dealings with the media in recent weeks, giving off the air of someone who has come to a big decision and is at ease with the call they’ve made.
We don’t know for sure whether that means Schmidt will stay with Ireland after the 2019 World Cup or leave, with the 53-year-old set to confirm his decision by the end of this month.
Those who warn of a Schmidt exit next year usually point to the All Blacks job as the main rugby reason for the Kiwi to leave – that being the dream role for most New Zealand-born coaches.
Steve Hansen hasn’t officially confirmed that he will vacate the All Blacks head coach role after the World Cup but has previously indicated that he can’t see himself continuing, and many of Schmidt’s Irish supporters presume he would be an ideal successor.
Even back in New Zealand, Schmidt’s name does the rounds as the possible next-in-line.
“There is no doubt Joe gets talked about,” says All Blacks legend Richie McCaw. “People admire what he has done with the Ireland team and there is no doubt he is a good coach.
“At some point, it would be great to see him come back to New Zealand to use all that experience and knowledge he has got and picked up over the years, to offer it back to New Zealand.
“Whether that means he comes back as a Super Rugby coach first or comes in as an All Blacks coach, time will tell. There is no doubt he has done a pretty good job with Ireland and he is obviously Kiwi at heart. He would probably love to give it a crack.”
There are many other strong possible candidates for the All Blacks, with McCaw highlighting Scott Robertson’s back-to-back Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, as well as name-checking John Plumtree of the Hurricanes, Japan head coach Jamie Joseph, Wales’ Warren Gatland and Montpellier boss Vern Cotter.
“I imagine if they all put their names in the hat you got a pretty good chance to get the best one,” says McCaw.
“Then you’ve got a guy like Ian Foster who is the current assistant coach – he might put his name in the hat too. It will be hard work to decipher who is the right man for the job, I would say, but it’s a great position to be in if Steve decides he has had enough.”
McCaw suggests that “it might come down to those names I mentioned wanting to work together,” which would be an intriguing prospect.
Cotter and Schmidt have, of course, been a coaching duo at Clermont, guiding the French club to a Top 14 title in 2010.
That was Schmidt’s last job as an assistant coach, however, and it seems unlikely he or Cotter would be happy to play second fiddle to a head coach.
More pressing for Schmidt than a possible future role with the All Blacks is Ireland’s meeting with Argentina tomorrow, before the visit of the Kiwis to Dublin in two weekends’ time.
That clash between the world’s two top-ranked nations will be a fine indicator of their strength with less than a year to go to the World Cup.
The All Blacks showed some vulnerability in losing to South Africa in Wellington during the recent Rugby Championship, but McCaw believes Hansen’s men are in good shape.
“I think if you just look purely at results, the last two, three years, they’ve been as good as any team really.
“If you put aside scores, I just look at some of the skill of some of those guys and the team in what they can do, it’s pretty phenomenal.
“It’s always hard to compare [to past All Blacks teams] but I’d say it’s right up there with one of the better ones.
“You look to next year, the World Cup has always been a big marker as to where the team is at and they’re on track to get to that point in pretty good shape.”
AIG ambassador Richie McCaw was speaking ahead of the All Blacks’ visit to Ireland. The All Blacks will take on Ireland in Dublin on Saturday 17 November. AIG is proud sponsor of the New Zealand All Blacks.
Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud
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