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Joe Schmidt speaks to the media at Dublin Airport.
Joe Schmidt speaks to the media at Dublin Airport.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Joe Schmidt 'blown away' by offers to continue coaching

The outgoing Irish boss has admitted he will take time to consider his future.
Oct 22nd 2019, 9:30 PM 75,643 78

JOE SCHMIDT SAYS that he’s been “blown away” by some of the approaches he’s received to continue his coaching career since announcing that he would step down as Ireland head coach.

Last November, Schmidt confirmed that he would end his six-and-a-half-year reign as Ireland head coach following the World Cup in Japan, and speaking shortly after arriving back in Dublin airport on Tuesday night, he admitted that there has no been shortage of options to continue coaching.

Schmidt’s time with Ireland ended on a sour note following Saturday’s 46-14 World Cup quarter-final exit to New Zealand, and while the former Leinster boss reiterated his intention to step away for the game for the immediate future, he left the door open to a return in 2020.

“I’m sure my wife is thinking what else is he going to do as well,” Schmidt said, when asked about his plans going forward.

“I know I’m not going to do it [coaching] in the near future. I’ve been blown away by some of the approaches and incredibly humbled by them. I made a commitment that I’m going to absolutely stick to, through to at least June or July of next year. 

As a family, we’ll sort of step back and decide what people want to do and how we’ll go about things. Because it hasn’t been a job, it has been a way of life. It has been seven days a week and I think I can honestly say, in six-and-a-half years, I’ve not taken one, full day off. There’s not one day where I don’t think I’ve not either been scribbling notes, or watching footage, or getting to a game, or doing some coaching, going into a club and doing something. I’ve loved it.”

Looking back at a hugely disappointing World Cup campaign, where Ireland lost to Japan in the pool stages, before Saturday’s horror show against the All Blacks, Schmidt repeated his post-match comments about his frustration with New Zealand’s extended break before the game — their final pool game against Italy was cancelled as a result of Typhoon Hagibis — but added that he also holds regrets about the way Ireland handled 2019 in general. 

On the back of a milestone defeat of New Zealand in Dublin last November, Ireland failed to rediscover the form that saw them enjoy a wonderful 2018, struggling through a Six Nations campaign, which included heavy defeats to both England and Wales. 

After a promising win against a poor Scotland team on the opening weekend of the World Cup, Ireland returned to the sort of lethargic, error-ridden performances that had caused so much concern earlier in the year. 

“I do think that we didn’t quite have the same rhythm that the All Blacks had and their coaching staff thought it was the same, and some of their players,” Schmidt said. 

joe-schmidt-with-jennifer-malone Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“If you can retain that really positive rhythm going into matches, I do think that it makes a difference. We changed that during the Six Nations; we changed it because we wanted to be really good in the World Cup and probably would have been better off staying with our week-to-week focus to live in the moment and play the tournament we were in. 

“If I had my time over I would probably change that. But my time is finished. They will be great learnings that the team and the squad and the current coaching staff will take forward.”   

With Schmidt now departing his role, the onus falls on Andy Farrell to pick up a broken group of players that will be scarred by their memories of Japan.

While the majority of those players will get an opportunity to hop back on the horse over the coming weeks with their provinces ahead of the 2020 Six Nations — which is just 14 weeks away — Schmidt admitted that he isn’t sure how he’ll deal with his newfound freedom, adding that this World Cup exit will be much harder to stomach than the 2015 quarter-defeat to Argentina.

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“Yeah, because it’s what you finished on. And so it is more difficult, because I’ve finished as a rugby coach and it’s hard to step away with that as your last involvement, but at the same time, I can only work as hard as I can work. 

I’ve worked with incredibly good people, the staff and the playing staff. I do think, as well as that, I know these players and I’m going to really enjoy watching them continue to progress and I think Andy and the team, they’re still going to be doing a super job. So I’m really looking forward to the Six Nations. Instead of looking through the glass, I might just have one in my hand, and I’m looking forward to that.”

Of course, while the Schmidt era has ended in familiarly disappointing fashion, the 54-year-old brought huge success during his time in the job, including three Six Nations titles and a Grand Slam, along with those landmark wins against New Zealand.

While it wasn’t quite the homecoming the Ireland squad had hoped for, there was a healthy crowd of well-wishers waiting for them as they arrived into Dublin Airport. All of the players were happy to stop and sign autographs or pose for photographs, but there was no-one in the travelling party more in demand than Schmidt, who took time to speak to supporters in between his final, brief, interview as Ireland head coach.

“Some of the high points are probably some of the messages I’ve received in the last 48 hours just from ex-players, or people who’ve said there was a real impact during the six-and-a-half years,” he added. 

I know the trophies are the visible things, the wins are the visible things. But, you want to try to help people get better, not just players improve. I think that I worked as hard as I could to do that.

“It doesn’t always work out in those two 40-minute periods, those two incredibly brutal, but incredibly enjoyable periods where we’ve had those trophies fall our way. And to end as we did is really disappointing.  

“Obviously, talking about that Grand Slam [2018] is special. That first-half in Twickenham, that was as good as we got, probably.

“Together with Chicago in 2016 [beating New Zealand for the first time], we played a team that had went six out of six in the Rugby Championship, amassed 35 tries, just conceded five across those games against the best the southern hemisphere had.

“We got five all by our lonesome in a super game which was an expression of what we were capable of doing. 

There’s been some special days with the crowd. I would say one of my best memories is France at the last World Cup [2015]. The Irish crowd that were in the stadium that day were absolutely phenomenal. I know the next week [against Argentina] didn’t go well for us with the carnage that happened in that game, but it was an incredibly proud moment to watch the players acknowledge the crowd.

“And the support that we had, it’s only just last November, not even a year ago, that we had the reverse result against New Zealand, not with the same margin, but I felt we really deserved to win that day and the crowd, the crowd was phenomenal. 

“So I’ll take away some really special memories, but they’re a little bit hard to dig out at the moment, because they’re clouded by the disappointment of, you know, Saturday evening.”

Unfortunately for Schmidt, Saturday evening is likely to linger over what was otherwise  a glittering period for Irish rugby for some time.

Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella dial up Gavan Casey on the therapy couch to provide the post-mortem to Ireland’s World Cup implosion at the hands of New Zealand

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Ciarán Kennedy


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