In Schmidt We Trust

Doubtless many of our readers saw the notes taken by an anonymous scribe from a recent Joe Schmidt seminar which found themselves ‘going viral’, as it were, yesterday afternoon.  If you didn’t, you can see them here.

It made for fascinating reading, an insight into the workings of one of the great coaches in modern sport.  Anyone who witnessed Joe Schmidt’s talk to Leinster fans in the Laighin Bar will know he’s a fascinating, charismatic and humourous guy who can easily command the attention of a room of punters.  Whatever or wherever this seminar was, we wish we were there.

It’s abundantly clear from reading that Schmidt is a man whose eye for detail is unmatched, and his preparation meticulous.  Every error in training is pulled up, and any that are missed are pulled up later from video analysis.  Little wonder Brian O’Driscoll spoke of every single day being a learning experience with him as coach.

A few things struck us as especially interesting.  One was the unwillingness to buy into ‘received wisdom’ or media-spun catch-all narratives, such as the all-conquering mental strength of the Indomitable All Blacks.  His dissection of the two contrasting World Cup games against France was fantastic.  Not for a second was he accepting that the Kiwis were in any way more composed or prepared for trench warfare in 2011 than in 2007; they got away with winning because the referee let them cheat the whole game.  Anyone who watched that game will remember that they were allowed to not roll out of the tackle at almost every single ruck.

There was some nice insight into how he kept squad harmony at Leinster, with Eoin Reddan running the fines/punishments committee and a policy of every player shaking hands when they first meet each day, a tradition he brought over from Clermont (I thought the French kissed each other, but we’ll let it slide) and how Jamie Heaslip – who comes across as a show pony influential figure – makes a point of shaking the hand of every single academy player.

What always struck us about Joe Schmidt is that he has a great sense of which buttons to press based on the prevailing mood.  He describes how, no matter what has gone on earlier in the week, once it gets to Thursday everything he says to the players is positive.  One Schmidt post-match interview in particular game always stood out in our minds.  It was a match against Glasgow in Scotstoun in the Heineken Cup.  Leinster played dreadfully, but an Isaac Boss touchdown against the base of a post and some good fortune defending the lead late in the match was enough to secure a narrow win.  In the weeks before the game, a number of players had given interviews relaying just how tough Schmidt’s Monday morning video sessions were, and how players are accountable for every single action.  But rather than berate this genuinely pretty awful performance, all he would say to the press was how proud he was of the group to have dug in to secure a really hard-fought win.  It just seemed exactly the right note to strike; terrific management.  Long may he remain in this country.

Will he though? Surely the BNZ hierarchy are watching, but equally as surely, success (domestic and international) in the Northern Hemisphere simply isn’t seen as adequate preparation for the BNZ job. While it’s tempting to see him as the obvious successor to Hansen after 2015, he might have to wait until further down the line.  Anyone who read Ruchie’s book will get a keen sense of how insular (and we don’t mean that in a negative sense) rugger in BNZ is. If Schmidt wants to coach BNZ, as he must, he will have to do some time back home first.  If he has his sights set on the 2019-23 RWC cycle, he will want to be heading home for the 2018 SH season, at the very latest, and probably earlier. That gives us about two years to enjoy the ride – anyone fancy minding the William Webb Ellis from 2015 for a couple of years?

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  1. I think when it comes down to it Joe obviously loves his job, his enthusiasm seems to be infectious, positivity, meticulousness, sense of humour..seems he has it all, lets hope we get a bit of luck against England also to help us across the line.

    • He’s signed with us until 2016. There’s a Lions tour in 2017. Should he do the unthinkable and coach a winning Lions tour then NZ would probably dump whoever’s in charge and beg him to squeeze in the 2019 WC with them before he becomes Grand Master of the Entire Universe.
      Sounds preposterous, but this guy was backs coach with a bunch regarded as overpaid chokers 5 years ago.

    • I was lucky enough to see the coaching ticket at the Supporter’s Club Q&A a few weeks ago, and his enthusiasm really is infectious. One thing that springs to mind is he thinks about *everything*. At one point he got asked why “some lad called Stringer” hadn’t been called up and would have won us the game against the All Blacks, and subsequently heckled Joe for “politics”, and he handled it magnificently, talking about how while Strings is a great player, he quite obviously isn’t the future of Ireland.

      He also keeps an eye on exiles and gives them (and I think their coaches? My memory may be a little fuzzy) a call to let them know what they need to do to be considered. I know it’s his job to do so, but the details he had for all of them was very impressive.

      He joked a lot about knowing “nothing” about all things forwards (scrums being something about guys pushing hard against each other), but you can tell he has a great understanding of the “big picture”, where I think his horses for courses policy will be very effective.

  2. You’d have to assume Dave Rennie is next in line for the New Zealand job, which would give us plenty of time to enjoy Schmidt’s stewardship. I would imagine he’ll have his eye on the Lions job in 2017 as well, although he’ll need to produce some very impressive results to overtake Gatland.

    • Beating Gatland’s Wales by the biggest margin of any of the 6N round two matches is certainly a good start.

    • I don’t think Gatland for 2019 is a fait accomplis by any means. He’s oviously got a great trck record with Wales and a successful Lions tour chalked up, but does anyone in their right minds really think that the reductive Warrenball last year’s Lions played would even get close to beating New Zealand, or even keeping scorelines respectable?

      • McGeechan was announced as coach 13 months before the 2009 tour, Gatland a mere 9 months before the 2013 one. 4 years is a long way away, Wales look to have peaked, and the Welsh troughs tend to be as low as their peaks are high. I wouldn’t put 2 euros on him.

      • Agree. Gatland won that series by the skin of his teeth. Arguably two poor performances and Beale slipping on his ass (after missing another kick) followed by a convincing win in the last test did the job.

        That’s against a fairly poor Australian team with a pretty strong Lions side, hard and all as it is to be relative.

        I think Gatty has been lucky in that a very strong Wales team have had a fairly secure setup as everyone else has been going through transition, or just had shitty coaching teams.

        He’s obviously done well at 6N level but the next World Cup will be a real test for him. Especially in the group they’re in.

      • I agree, the series was turgid and awful, but Gatland, as a winning Lions coach who’ll be in situ in 2017, is the presumptive head coach. I think he’ll be overtaken, but if someone were to be picked tomorrow morning, I could only see one name coming up.

  3. ruckinhell

     /  February 12, 2014

    “Surely the BNZ hierarchy are watching, but equally as surely, success (domestic and international) in the Northern Hemisphere simply isn’t seen as adequate preparation for the BNZ job.”

    Not so sure about that statement- NH success got Graham Henry the job and you couldn’t even really call his time in the NH a success as such (a patchy Wales team of some high highs and low lows and a Lions Test series lost with a fine group of players). His only New Zealand coaching job between departing the vales and taking up the BNZ job was as defensive coach with the Blues for 1 season. in 2003 Henry hadn’t set the world alight in NH and his last head coach job in NZ was in 1998 but he was saved by the fact that he wasn’t the hapless Mitchell. That, and the fact that he was the only one who wanted the job. Advantage Henry.

    I think the coaching stocks have improved since in NZ and that’s even taking into account the fact that the great white hope of Cantubrians (Dingo Deans) has effectively ruled himself out of the BNZ job after making a dog’s dinner of the Wallabies. I suspect that Dave Rennie is most likely to take the job if the BNZ team keep motoring relatively well, they seem to be happy to keep it all in house at present. That being said, if the wheels fall off the BNZ cart and the local coaches become discredited a la 2003 then you can be sure that the NZ public will be more than happy to take a guy like Schmidt who has a track record as a winner, even if only in the NH.

    That being said, hands off you filthy fush and chup eating mungrels. He’s ours!

  4. Leinsterlion

     /  February 12, 2014

    Whats refreshing about all of this is the clarity Schmidt has brought about in seemingly every facet, compare that to his immediate predecessors EOS and DK, I cant recall them ever being so open about the direction, what they want, apart from maybe Mick McGurn and Spala,(who the IRFU proceeded to throw under a bus for EOS’s failure to build a team in X amount of years).
    Lets face it, DK an EOS treated the rugby public as morons, and obviously the team as well, judging by how everyone seems so refreshed by the “new” Schmidt id bringing into camp.

    • Sound Steve

       /  February 12, 2014

      I think that’s because the majority of the rugby watching public haven’t a clue. What’s frightening is that so many people think they do. The hubris with which so many half-baked theories are put forward in the comments section of this blog is astounding.

    • Sound Steve

       /  February 12, 2014

      Also, LeinsterLion, is your nose not put out of joint by the Munster-esque 10-man rugby Ireland seem to be playing for the most part?

  5. curates_egg

     /  February 12, 2014

    Interesting you source to the Leinster fans forum. The same post is being discussed at the Munster fans forum, where it has turned into a debate on why Zebo is not with the squad. Sigh.

    I personally think our backline is crying out for a bit of pace – particularly against England – but I guess, if there is such a cohesive system in place, that pace can’t come at all costs. Systems, units and the complete squad and surrounding ethic have served Schmidt well where he has coached to date. Long may it last and hopefully all involved can and will buy into it as well as the players in the current squad (from all provinces) seem to have done so far.

    • Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

       /  February 12, 2014

      I would hope or rather expect, that players, who thus far haven’t made the match day squad and are highly rated by their provincial supporters e.g. Zebo and Madigan to be breaking their asses in order to fit seamlessly into JS’s plans if and when they get the chance.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 12, 2014

        I think Madigan has to change to fit into Matt “kick the leather off the focking thing” O’Connors ways, rather than Joe’s, tbh.

        • Len

           /  February 12, 2014

          Unfortunately because as good as Jimmy G has been we look a bit one dimensional in attack with him at the helm.

  6. Sound Steve

     /  February 12, 2014

    After a stellar club career and a mixed bag of an Autumn Series, an Ireland coach starts the Six Nations in convincing fashion, notching up a convincing home win against a bete noire while putting a mediocre side to the sword in the other match…

    I’m actually talking about Deccie here… and we all know what happened to him…

    I’m reserving judgement on Schmidt for a while

    • I think that you are wise to be sanguine but the more I see of Joe Schmidt the more admiration I have for him. He is absolutely magnificent in front of the camera and it is clear that he is magnificent with the players. To hear DOC say that Schmidt had called him to talk to him about his being omitted is fantastic. Yes there will be poor days (such as Leinster losing in Galway) but there is no doubt that this Ireland team is supremely well coached.

    • curates_egg

       /  February 13, 2014

      You’re absolutely right to. Regardless of how well this season goes, it is next season that will really tell. As an Ireland fan, my biggest hope is for us to go to a World Cup with a proper competitive squad and playbook for the first time. If we have one or two good 6 Nations on the way, all the better. If none of that happens, then maybe this is just a post-Kidney bounce, like the post-Eddie bounce. Regardless, it is nice to feel a bit of positivity for the first time in a couple of seasons.

      The positive thing for Leinster fans was to see the constant progress and evolution under Schmidt for 3 seasons. The really depressing thing for Irish fans was the almost linear regression from Kidney’s first season.

      • seiko

         /  February 13, 2014

        You are forgetting Leinster failed to qualify for the knock-outs in the Heineken Cup in his last season, largely due to injuries. Something which also affected Kidney’s Ireland in a major way. Lets not forget either the 2nd test IN New Zealand where Kidney’s Ireland put in a great performance as well. Kidney could have done with a bit of luck not having to play a 3rd Test in NZ at the end of a very long season where even the indestructible Jamie Heaslip was injured.

        I think Schmidt fans should be careful about creating a stick to beat Schmidt with a ‘Kidney bad’, ‘Schmidt good’ narrative

        Hopefully Schmidt is a lucky coach with regard to injuries to key people like Paul O’Connell, Sean O’Brien, Sexton & Murray because a good coach needs a fair bit of luck to be successful.

        • Fair comments all. We’ve been round and round the Kidney issues at this stage so no need to dredge them up either, but regardless of his strengths as a coach, which are obviously numerous, Ireland totally lost their way in the final couple of years of his reign. The simple fact that you can see wht Ireland have been trying to do in the last two games makes a huge difference to people’s perspective on the coaching ticket.

          As regards luck: Schmidt’s Ireland are already down Sean O’Brien and Tommy Bowe, and have had to make do with only about 25% of Paul O’Connell so far (50 minutes at 80% capacity) but he has won the first two games handsomely.

        • curates_egg

           /  February 13, 2014

          Good squad development somewhat mitigates the need for relying on luck in the case of injuries. This is perhaps the biggest criticism of the Kidney era and one which it seems is being immediately redressed.

          • Bueller

             /  February 14, 2014

            Did Kidney not develop the current squad before Joe got there (Marty Moore and Jack McGrath aside). Who exactly has Joe brought through?

    • There’s reserving judgement on Schmidt and there’s reserving judgement on Schmidt’s Ireland career. The two are quite different. We don’t yet know how Schmidt’s Ireland career will pan out, but Schmidt the coach obviously excellent.

    • Shouldn’t that be #betenoire? #Thornley101

  7. toro toro

     /  February 12, 2014

    One-note troll is one-note troll.

  8. @Bueller – the word ‘develop’ is bandied around a lot these days to the point that it’s become devoid of meaning. Kidney gave a lot of the playing squad some caps, but to what extent did he ‘develop’ their ability to perform at test rugby. Mostly, the Ireland squad was a losing environment in his last couple of years. It’s not enough to pick chaps and then say ‘I developed them!’ Incidentally, I would say the same to people who try to credit Eddie with the grand slam. Eddie may have put that team in place, but Kidney was the one who put them in a position to go and win the championship.

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