Joe Schmidt – the Statistics

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Bullshit – that line came from a politician for whom facts could be inconvenient. Whilst the rugby public are just beginning to recognise how individual statistics can drive team success in this post-Moneyball era, they generally cherry-pick numbers to back up a previously-held position. [Aside: go see Andy McGeady if you think statistics are irrelevances of interest to out-of-touch boffins only.]

However, team statistics are harder to argue with – they tell the story about a teams success at a higher level. In the Joe Schmidt era, Leinster’s success was frankly incredible, and probably impossible to match. When you look at the raw numbers generated by the Milky Bar Kid and his goys, its kind of staggering. Here are a few choice gems from the Joe Schmidt era at Leinster:

0: Heineken Cup games lost to teams who aren’t Clermont Auvergne

2: teams who beat Leinster more than twice in Joe Schmidt’s reign, Clermont (3) and Ospreys (5)  

4:  both the number of trophies won in three years, and the number of games under Schmidt it took for George Hook to claim he had “lost the dressing room” – this was on September 24th, 2010

6: finals reached in three seasons

59: Net winning margin in HEC knockout games not involving Cardiff, average of 11.8 ppg

85.4%: success rate in Heineken Cup. 24 matches played: 20 won, 1 draw, 3 lost

90: Net winning margin in 6 HEC knockout matches (all won), average of 15 ppg

240: Number of starts made for Ireland by Leinster players during Schmidt’s reign, 48.5% of all starts  (Mun 145 Uls 100 Conn 7 Other 3)

Leinster have had a remarkably successful three seasons under Schmidt and have done so playing skillful and intelligent rugger – they have parked themselves at the top table of European rugby, and only Clermont Auvergne and Toulon have come close to their level in this time. Now Schmidty moves on to Ireland, and Matt O’Connor comes from Leicester to take the Impossible Job – if Schmidt’s methods transfer to Carton House, expect the kind of success (and attacking play) that we all think we have the players for.

Samoa, Oz and BNZ is a tough series to start, and the baying paying public will expect two wins. Its been a while since we have achieved our goal in a series (RWC11 pool stages probably), and the sky-high expectations Schmidty has created for himself mean he will probably want three. This ride could be fun, you know.

Postscript: the original plan was for Les Kiss to take the tour to the USA and Canada, but it appears Schmidty will be elbowing the inventor of the choke tackle aside after Houston and taking charge himself. Hands on.

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  1. Jimbob

     /  May 30, 2013

    A first choice backline looking like Murray, Sexton/Madigan, Zebo, Marshall/Olding/Darcy/Madigan, BOD, Bowe and Kearney should really thrive under Schmidt and play to their full potential as a unit.
    Ireland’s tighthead crisis should be solved provided Hagan drives on with London Samoa, Deccy Fitz stays fit and Nathan White will qualify in a year (I think).
    Add to that possible BOD replacements in Henshaw or Payne in a years time, and a good few exciting young players coming up through the ranks, Ireland are looking in decent health for the next two 6N and RWC2015. Roll on the Schmidt era!!!!

  2. “if Schmidt’s methods transfer to Carton House, expect the kind of success (and attacking play) that we all think we have the players for”

    Fingers, toes and more delicate parts all crossed, says the man who only ticked one box above.

    I really, really, really hope this all comes together.

    • At the very least Schmidt will freshen up the atmosphere and morale in the team. I really do hope he can translate day in day out club coaching into 2-3 week bursts of international coaching.

      His relationships with the provinces is going to be absolutely key. If he can convince the provinces to implement some standard Ireland wide skills coaching/strategies so that when players arrive to camp they are adding to, rather than replacing, their provincial training we are on to a winner.

      Sadly I doubt this will happen and I fear that Schmidt just won’t have the time to hone basic skills they way he did at Leinster.

      Having said all that, his ability to analyse and devise strategies that genuinely work against opposition teams is truly phenomenal and this will definitely translate well to the international setup.

      • Schmidt is lucky that Matt O’Connor is coming in at Leinster, and is talking a good game on skills development. Penney is already adopting that kind of approach in Munster,

        Will Ulster players be a little disadvantaged under Schmidt?

        • ORiordan

           /  May 30, 2013

          It remains to be seen what the personal chemistry will be between Schmidt, Penney and Anscombe, but Ulster appears to be the main source of young backline talent and Schmidt can’t really afford to ignore that.

        • I don’t think so WOC; Ulster have some genuine talent coming through who already look to have a really high skill-set and I think they also have a Head Coach whose philosophy is progressive as well.

          As usual the opportunities that are available to Ireland rugby are fantastic and really give me hope. I just hope these opportunities convert into real change in the national team!

        • solidalarry

           /  May 30, 2013

          @WoC – if we weren’t disadvantaged under Fr. Declan, we won’t be under Joe.

          Also, I’d say our skill levels are higher (in general) than the Munster squad, certainly no lower. Leinster clearly lead in this area, but I don’t think our own salty Kiwi maestro wants anything less than constant improvement on accuracy.

          However, I agree entirely with robnorris’ post, and believe this is the key unknown:

          “His relationships with the provinces is going to be absolutely key. If he can convince the provinces to implement some standard Ireland wide skills coaching/strategies so that when players arrive to camp they are adding to, rather than replacing, their provincial training we are on to a winner.”

          Here’s hoping!

  3. Len

     /  May 30, 2013

    I’m really hopeful that General Joe can reinvigorate Irish back play in way he did for Leinster. I think we have a real chance of managing two if not three wins in the autumn and I’d love to see us finally beat BNZ and let the great one tick that box in his last season.

  4. New word required methinks – Schmitistics !!

    Two comments, firstly it is impossible to think that we will continue to enjoy that level of excellence with MoC or indeed anybody else at Leinster. We need to remember this in the, inevitable, darker days ahead.

    Secondly am I alone in thinking BoD staying for 1 more year (great for Leinster btw) for ireland is a double-edged sword. A BoD-sized hole at 13 one year out from RWC cannot be a good thing. I believe it should be 2 more years or, whisper it, the great(est) one should go after the Lions hoopla.

    • Len

       /  May 30, 2013

      Alternatively stop playing BOD full time and use him as a super sub/personal trainer/safety net for bedding in his replacement. In that role he’d be worth the contract price alone and it could extend his involvement out to the WC as the body impact would be less. I’d love to see him given the captains arm band for one more game cough BNZ cough

    • solidalarry

       /  May 30, 2013

      His exit with coincide very nicely with the Oirishification of Jared ‘Jerry’ Payne.

      Schmidt, no doubt, has seen and fallen in love with the tapes of him playing 13 for their mutual old muckers the Auckland Blues.

      Seriously, though – I’m not sure how I feel about the three-year rule (would prefer a much higher number) but JP is the massive stand-out to be our next green thirteen.

  5. Aoife

     /  May 30, 2013

    He said in his interview last week on Second Captains that it was definitely just one more year because his body couldn’t take any more pre-seasons. He would say that of course though to get everyone off his back…

    It’s true, Leinster are at an incredibly high level now & we should appreciate it of course – we all know what it’s like to be on the other end of things. That said, I wouldn’t write MO’C off just yet or assume dark days are in the immediate future – am trying to have a bit more of a glass-half-full outlook on it all!

  6. Aoife

     /  May 30, 2013

    Also, I would LOVE us to beat BNZ. Fingers crossed the bounce from Joe coming on board can make it happen. It’d be a great step to get away from our bogie-team mentality e.g. France giving us the willies every single time they look our way.

  7. Really nice piece guys. One crucial part of Schmidt’s success at Leinster seems to have been the hands on approach and the constant attempt to improve the implementation of his playing system, with each week used to improve on the errors of the previous week. This will naturally be much more difficult in the national set-up, where the rythm is totally different. Really hope he can do it though. It would be nice for us to finally achieve to our potential at the very least.

  8. Fergal O'Shea

     /  May 30, 2013

    Point of information: re the 0 Heineken Cup games stat, when did Stade Toulousain merge with Clermont Auvergne? 😉

  9. Fergal O'Shea

     /  May 30, 2013

    Scratch that last comment, 09/10 was Cheika. More impressed then! Hard to see how he can keep it going for Ireland though; Wales and France have better players.

    • Jimbob

       /  May 30, 2013

      Do Wales and France really have better players? I’d say they both have a very different set of players to our own, and in France’s case a larger pool to choose from but certainly not better as a whole.
      We are competitive in all areas of the field, granted we have lack of depth at TH at the moment but we have more players coming through than Wales in that position. In 2nd row with Ryan,Toner, Tuohy and Henderson coming through we have excellent players, a good few years in McCarthy and O’Connell will keep going until his body says no. Back row has never looked as good (aside from Fez’s constant injuries). A good (potentially great) starting SH in Murray; Marmion, Cooney and McGrath have some serious battles ahead between them for starting shirts. At OH we have the best player in the northern hemisphere and some serious talent to push each other and Sexton even further. on the wings we have young players already blooded and younger ones coming though. At fullback we have,on his day, the best in the world with Payne and Henshaw coming through we also have depth. At 12 we have a wealth of ulster talent and utility backs lining up and of course there’s13 which will never be the same once BOD retires but as I said above Henshaw and Payne can also play here and have serious talent, if not Cave is a very able player and Luke Fitz might make a full time transition to centre.
      I’m not saying everyone of our players is better than their Welsh or French counter parts but we have some excellent talent and shouldn’t be written off so whimsically. Add that to the fact that there will be a very good mix of youth and experience going into the next 6N, I fancy our chances quite highly once Schmidt gets them playing how he wants.

  10. TonyC

     /  May 30, 2013

    A lot of fawning over Schmidt but let’s not forget the two lost Rabo finals (one of which they threw away a 9 point lead in the dying minutes at home) and the complete botching of the Clermont home game this year (Jennings starting? Healy on the bench? Did he not anticipate the physicality?). The only true epic he’s come out on the right side of was the H-Cup semi last year. Please don’t say Northampton because we should have beaten them out the gate. Also, he hardly built the team. Everything was in place from Cheika’s time there. Not a big Kidney fan either but in terms of his provincial record at least, he put that Munster team together.

    • LeftBank

       /  May 30, 2013

      They lost two Rabo finals…having won the HEC just a week before. It’s nigh on impossible to complete a European/domestic double.

    • TonyC – You sound like the Hookster!

    • Leinster68

       /  May 30, 2013

      TonyC – Your really name wouldn’t be George would it?

      • Amiga500

         /  May 30, 2013

        The name is George…. Conor George….

        I have an indo column… shocking… not (sh!t) stirring. [allegedly]

    • Yossarian

       /  May 30, 2013

      came out of the group with Claremont,Beat Leicster and Tolouse on route to that final against Northampton.granted he didn’t “build” the team but he clearly took them to another level again. in addition he isn’t leaving them without the next generation coming through. You could say Kidney built the Munster team that reached the top but left them with nothing coming through to fall back on.

      • Keith

         /  May 30, 2013

        Not to mention Racing and Sarries who both finished 2nd in their leagues that season.

      • TonyC

         /  May 31, 2013

        Firstly, he hardly brought through the next generation. He is obliged to give the squad game time due to the player management rules. He hardly waved a fking magic wand on Ian Madigan. You just need to look at underage national squads in the last 10 years to see that Leinster (and Ulster) have dominated and this has been reflected in the number of players coming through.

        Secondly, a team packed with frontline internationals and the resources to bring in a Brad Thorn mid-season should be well capable of winning home games against Leicester and Toulouse.

        • Did you ever watch Ian Madigan play? He’s come on in leaps and bounds under Schmidt. He’s distribution is quality with a lot less hail marys. He’s become a much more consistent team player. Does the coach not get any credit for the improvement of a young player?

          You’ve also got a pretty short memory if you think beating the top clubs in Europe is a given.

  11. Great piece. The first stat was the best. Really hope the Schmidt magic works at international level. Surely any coach would be mad not to adopt the skills training that would be essential a provincial level to support Schmidt’s approach.

  12. Patrick

     /  May 30, 2013

    I suppose joe didn’t ‘build the team’ in Leinster, but then his job is to make the most of what he’s got and he certainly did that. Thinking abouth succession planning, Madigan aside, I can’t think of any players that joe took from ( relative) no where and turned into heros. I think we’ll see the same from joe with Ireland – his job is to win games, and that means he’ll pick / start BOD when he’s fit, and POC. We are likely to see a fairly predictable team v aus and nz in nov and the 6n, all be it perforimg to better level….

    What I do expect to be different is the approach to touring games and the likes of the Samoa game in nov. I think joe will be much more flexible, and methodical, in blooding players in those games than past managers. This shoul mean that an injury crisis like this years 6n doesn’t happen as there will be young guys ready to take the step up.

    Would love to see stats on how many players got their first start under joe, and their % game time vs possible game time there after

    • Yossarian

       /  May 30, 2013

      in fairness with rugby players they don’t tend to come from obscurity and become world beaters, they develop by and large over time being given game time here and there. Cooney has 22 games for leinster,D.Kearney/o’Malley/Ruddock over 50,Madigan has 81 games!my point is players can become an “overnight” sensation and then you realise they have been getting game time all along.The hope would be that some form of that will happen when appropriate at international level. I don’t expect lads coming in for new caps out of the blue but gradually introduced on tours like this summer/Samoa(higher ranked than a number of the 6 nations teams)/even Italy/Scotland

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