'We always find an angle to have a go off someone but this guy has been phenomenal'

Ronan O’Gara is full of admiration for the job Joe Schmidt has done in Ireland.

WHILE RONAN O’GARA never played under Joe Schmidt, the former Munster out-half has been inside the Kiwi’s bubble to fully appreciate the enormous impact he has made on Irish rugby.

O’Gara was part of Schmidt’s coaching staff for Ireland’s tour of USA and Japan two summers ago, and admits the IRFU will find it hard to appoint a like-for-like replacement should the Kiwi end his tenure after the 2019 World Cup.

Ronan O'Gara with Joe Schmidt O'Gara was part of Schmidt's coaching team for the 2017 tour of USA/Japan. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Having embarked on his own coaching odyssey with Racing 92 and now the Crusaders, O’Gara is full of admiration for Schmidt having seen first-hand his expertise and influence as a coach. 

Schmidt’s future as Ireland boss beyond next year’s World Cup remains uncertain with the 53-year-old expected to sit down with the IRFU after this month’s November Tests to state his intentions.

It’s hard to imagine Ireland without Schmidt such has been his success both with Leinster and the national team over the last eight years, with the union already putting plans in place should he move on.

“What we have to acknowledge that we have a coach that has given massive consistency to a really good team,” O’Gara said in Dublin yesterday.

“He deserves huge praise. In Ireland we’re always finding an angle to have a go off someone but this guy has been phenomenal. He deserves huge praise and as a junior coach you can only sit back and admire what he has done for Irish rugby. It has been spectacular, if you ask me.

But the whole show has been impressive. Nucifora for the first three or four years, there wasn’t a mention of him but now people see it’s his strategies and thought processes — somebody has to have a plan. It can’t be just the IRFU. Someone must be leading those meetings and giving them direction. 

“We are quick to knock the English but look at the job [Stuart] Lancaster is doing at Leinster, look at Andy Farrell with Ireland. They are quality coaches.

“It doesn’t matter where you are from – get the best people and players will be inspired to perform like they have under Joe. But I don’t think there is another Joe out there.”

O’Gara, who will return to Christchurch for his second season on the Crusaders coaching staff later this month, was asked is Schmidt being talked about as the next All Blacks coach in New Zealand.

“His name is mentioned obviously but over there, they’re interested in their set-up,” the 41-year-old continued.

Ronan O’Gara Guinness launched the Guinness Series by announcing their campaign #AnswerIrelandsCall in the presence of Irish Rugby legend Ronan O’Gara. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It’s not really much of a burning issue among players or among other coaches, everyone is focused on their bubble and team and that’s the way it is. 

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“Players have to be selfish and look at getting the best out of themselves. It doesn’t really pop up in general discussions.”

Before Schmidt announces his decision, he will look to guide Ireland to a second win over the All Blacks in three meetings when the sides meet in Dublin on 17 November.

Ireland open their Autumn schedule on Saturday against Italy in Chicago, before Argentina visit the Aviva Stadium ahead of that eagerly-anticipated clash with Steve Hansen’s side.

“They respect Ireland hugely, I think,” O’Gara said. “They watch a lot of European rugby in New Zealand so they’re aware Ireland have been going well.

“For New Zealand, every other country in the world prep for them like a cup final and New Zealand don’t do that because of the standards they’ve set in the game and where they stand in the game. They have done a lot of good for rugby, and are the standard bearers.”

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