Schmidt and Cotter ahead of the Six Nations opener in 2017. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Cotter backs Joe Schmidt for All Black job if NZRU look outward

Cotter has worked closely with Schmidt, but knows full well that there are numerous factors at play for the NZRU.

VERN COTTER HAS endorsed Joe Schmidt to be the next All Blacks coach.

All Blacks assistant Ian Foster is the favourite to succeed Steve Hansen, should he indeed step aside, after the 2019 World Cup.

The basis to this theory is, under Hansen, the All Blacks have benefited from continuity of structures and management, and Foster would be best placed to carry on in a similarly successful vein.

But with so many quality coaches, at home and scattered throughout the world, Foster is clearly not the only prospect for the All Blacks.

Should Schmidt decide to have a crack, Cotter knows his good friend’s credentials would be difficult to dismiss.

“Joe would be a very good coach with the All Blacks,” Cotter said. “We just don’t know how things will play out. He’s certainly qualified. Whether or not the cards fall on either side you never know.”

Schmidt has crafted a formidable reputation since assuming the reins with Ireland in 2013 and guiding them from ninth to second in the world. Not just with recent result, either. His meticulous planning and tactical awareness are other valuable assets.

While Ireland failed to progress past the last World Cup quarter-finals, Schmidt holds a 73% win rate and last year guided the team to a third Six Nations title on his watch and  the Grand Slam.

He also, of course, inspired Ireland to their historic victory over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016 – a result not lost on powerbrokers at New Zealand Rugby or the demanding public.

Vern Cotter Cotter coaching Montpellier against Leinster last season. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Cotter and Schmidt share a coaching friendship dating back some 15 years to when they first joined forces at Bay of Plenty. They also linked up in France to deliver Clermont their maiden title, and then plotted each other’s downfall when Schmidt moved to Leinster and onto the Ireland national team.

“It was always a fierce rivalry between us and then of course I went to Scotland,” Cotter said.

I was so glad we won the last game against Ireland because hopefully I don’t have to coach against him again. It’s such bloody hard work because he is such a good coach.”

By the end of next year’s World Cup, Schmidt and his family will have been based away from New Zealand for more than 11 years. He has indicated a decision on his future by the end of this year.

Another intriguing twist is the fact Cotter challenged Hansen for the All Blacks’ top job in 2012 – with Schmidt to be his assistant. Next time around, there is potential for those roles to be reversed.

“The All Blacks is an intimidating job. To be perfectly honest I don’t even think about it,” Cotter said.

“All I’m trying to do is my best in Montpellier. I don’t think it’s a good idea to start speculating on what ifs outside.

 “Joe is a good friend, and a great human being. We spend a lot of time together and stay in touch.

“I think he plans to go back to New Zealand at some stage and I think it’ll be great for New Zealand rugby if he gets involved.”

Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42 / SoundCloud

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