Schmidt’s legacy will stand the test of time after extraordinary success

Sinéad Burke of Galway is presented with her TG4 All Star award by Ard Stiúrthóir TG4, Alan Esslemont and President of LGFA Marie Hickey during the TG4 Ladies Football All Stars Awards, in association with Lidl, at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.
Sinéad Burke of Galway is presented with her TG4 All Star award by Ard Stiúrthóir TG4, Alan Esslemont and President of LGFA Marie Hickey during the TG4 Ladies Football All Stars Awards, in association with Lidl, at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NO manager or coach is irreplaceable, but Joe Schmidt is as close as it gets. The popular New Zealander’s decision to return to home shores after next year’s World Cup in Japan may come as no surprise and even though his successor as Head Coach has already been lined up, a great void is going to be still left in Irish rugby.

Schmidt has left an indelible imprint on the sport in this country as his record with both Leinster and Ireland over the past eight years testifies. His microscopic style of analysis, attention to detail, together with coaching of an extraordinarily high standard, has served both teams brilliantly. He has good men around him, but Schmidt sets the benchmark.

He’s a professional to his fingertips and though a few individuals under his watch indicated that they are often driven to distraction by Schmidt’s constant drive for perfection, they also acknowledge the transformative effect he has had on their own individual careers. Nothing is left to chance; players know their roles; and what’s expected of them. Painstaking repetition on the training ground has seen to that.

Schmidt’s winning record since he came to these shores in 2010 brooks no argument. He had been assistant coach with Clermont until linking up with Leinster. He led the province to two Heineken Cups and enjoyed an overall record off 77 wins from 99 matches. That’s a jaw-dropping success rate of 75%. No wonder Ireland then came knocking on his door after Declan Kidney’s departure.

Taking over as the Irish Head Coach in April of 2013, Schmidt has enjoyed a similar win ratio with the men in green. Given the country’s sporadic triumphs over the decades, what the 53-year has achieved with Ireland is extraordinary. Three Six Nations titles and only a third ever Grand Slam – a feat notably completed in Twickenham last March when overcoming England 24-15 – represents a magnificent haul.

Throw in those two historic wins over the All-Blacks, an away series success over Australia and taking Ireland to number two in the World rankings, Schmidt has molded Johnny Sexton and company into something of a rugby juggernaut. Ireland have never come close before to their current level of consistency – winning 11 of their past 12 tests – and are not genuine contenders for next year’s World Cup. It’s an outstanding accomplishment, especially in the context of Irish rugby’s history.

For more,  read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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